How to Find High Paying Truck Loads

There is more to running a trucking company than simply owning some big rigs and scheduling loads. In truth, the trucking industry is incredibly competitive today. In order to survive in this industry, owners must be capable of performing an ongoing juggling act that involves maintenance and upkeep of vehicles, driver training, satisfaction and review, changing government regulations and ever-changing client needs. Each of these facets must be run well or the entire company might suffer. One way that companies can ease some of the burden is to carefully consider the type of freight they haul, as higher-paying loads and a healthy bottom line can lead to less stress overall.

What is a Basic Rate for Freight?

There is no such thing as a basic rate for the freight that trucking companies haul. This is because the nation’s economy is ever-changing. With each rise of fuel prices, prediction of driver shortage or new government regulation which must be followed, freight rates change. For instance, many companies incurred a new cost recently as they were required to forego paper logbooks for drivers, which have been standard in the industry for man years, and instead put computerized log systems, also known as ELDs, into each truck they own.

According to the FMCSA, the average cost per year for these systems will hover near $495 for each truck they are installed in. In January of 2018, the average rate for a refrigerated load had climbed by 18 cents making it to $2.66 per mile. Flatbed rate was a little lower at $2.39 per mile while spot vans were averaging only $2.26 per load. These rates alone mean little until they are compared to the average cost of running a truck or a trucking company.

Costs to Owners

Once again, the cost of owning and running a trucking company is not a simple thing. Fixed costs include things such as truck payments and insurance, office space, health insurance, and permits. Variable costs include items such as fuel, repairs, tires, taxes and lodging for drivers.

In 2018, the overall cost of owning a semi is said to be about $1.38 per mile. In short, it costs around $180,000 to own and operate a commercial truck each year. And when you really look at all these numbers, it is easy to see that getting top-dollar loads is important in order to stay in the industry.

Different Rates for Different Freights

So, is there a trick to finding the highest paying truck loads? The answer seems to be in qualifications and training. Those types of loads that are more difficult, hazardous or require special upgrades to the driver license frequently tend to pay more.

For instance, hauling materials that are considered hazardous, carrying livestock or even pulling a multi-level trailer full of new vehicles may pay more than a normal, everyday reefer load. Drivers who are qualified to pull flatbed trailers also tend to earn more, as the drivers must often help to tarp, chain or strap these large loads so that the items do not shift in traffic. Oversize flatbed loads requiring pilot cars to help move large items from place to place increase in difficulty, necessary skill level and also in rate of pay.

The location of a trucking company and where it is willing to deliver to may also have some impact on how much a load pays. For instance, most companies know that heading into a congested downtown city for pickup or delivery takes considerably more time and effort than delivery in a city that is less congested. Businesses in difficult or congested areas typically pay more per mile so that truck companies will be willing to deal with the hassle.

Find a System that Works

There are many kinds of load boards that help trucking companies match their drivers and equipment to appropriate loads.  Some of these are paid boards while others are free. In most of these systems, a trucking company can search for loads based on trailer type, load destination, pay per mile rate or even by specialty qualifications such as hazmat endorsement.

Some of these boards are set up to draw large trucking companies, while others are built to help find truck loads for owner-operators.  Finding a system that works best for your company, whether it is large or small, is imperative to your business’s success.

With so many of these load boards available, there is simply no reason to settle for the lowest pay on loads. Instead, figure out how you can set your company apart from others on the road. Offer incentives to drivers who are willing to get extra license endorsements, drivers who don’t mind climbing atop a load to properly secure and tarp it, drivers who have the patience to deal with inner-city traffic. Because once the word gets out that a trucking company is willing to go the extra mile for their clients – those higher paying loads tend to become more frequent and may even lead to long-term contracts in the future.

Tax Deductions for Owner Operator Truck Drivers

Tax deductions for owner operators reduce the amount of self-employment tax and income tax associated with the income reported to the IRS. Self-employed or statutory employees generally file tax deductible business expenses on Schedule C with reported income. Drivers should keep good records and receipts to substantiate any deductions taken.

What Type of Expense Can Be Deducted?

Expenses related to your business are typically tax deductible if you are self-employed. Here is a list of some of the items you might be able to deduct:

  • Vehicle expenses, such as tolls, parking, maintenance, fuel, registration fees, tires and insurance
  • Trade association dues or subscriptions to trade magazines
  • Flat-rate taxes
  • Travel expenses, if incurred while being away from your tax base
  • Licenses and regulatory fees
  • Specialized work gear, such as goggles, boots or protective gloves
  • Electronic devices, if only used for work
  • Sleeper berth equipment, such as an alarm clock, bedding, curtains, cooking equipment and first aid supplies
  • Work related fees for drug testing, DOT physical and a sleep apnea test (If required for work)
  • Fees paid to a dispatch service
  • Leasing costs

Don’t forget the standard deductions available to anyone, such as child and dependent care, lifetime leaning credits and the child tax credit.

Know Your Tax Home

To claim travel expenses, you must be traveling away from home. Typically, local drivers aren’t going to be able to deduct travel expenses, but it depends on a few factors. You should determine your tax home to calculate whether you’re traveling away from it or not.

Your tax home is the city or general area where you work, according to the IRS. For self-employed drivers, this is generally the base or dispatch center where you get assignments, not where you live.

The tax home includes the entire city or general area where the work is located, not just a zip code or neighborhood. A tax home is also the main place of business. If the nature of your business means that you don’t have a regular place of business, your tax home may be where you live.

For most drivers, the tax home is typically where a trip is begun and ended. If you are using a residence as your tax home, make sure that you can show you help maintain the property while you’re away from home. If you don’t maintain a home, you are considered a transient, which means you have no tax home.

To reiterate, you must substantiate your expenses. Keep your receipts and log book to validate the purposes of each travel expense. Back up your log books to ensure you have the information at your fingertips if you need it. Documentation requires time, date and place for each travel day.

Per Diem Expenses

While you can track each expense while you’re on the road, you may also use a per diem, which eliminates the need to prove the actual costs of your expenses when you’re away from home. However, you do need to prove you are working away from your tax base. The most current rates are listed in the IRS Publication 1542, Per Diem Rates. To claim the per diem rate, drivers must:

  • Itemize their tax deductions.
  • Have a tax home.
  • Be subject to HOS regulations.
  • Meet the overnight rule. Essentially, this means that a driver cannot complete a trip within a single day.
  • Maintain documents that they were away from home for every day a per diem is claimed.

Per diem covers meal expenses and incidentals, such as tips and fees. You should still keep receipts for hotels, showers, laundry and other costs. These expenses are deductible.

Maintaining Good Records

Self-employed truck driver tax deductions are a great way to help reduce your tax bill, but you do need to substantiate these expenses. Here are some suggestions to help you stay organized through the year:

  • Keep a file to sort receipts by month or by trip. Don’t just put all your receipts into a folder and expect to sort them out in January. Spend a few minutes each week organizing your information to be ready at tax season.
  • Store log books in the Cloud and on a hard drive. Dropbox and Google Drive are just two secure places to store your information.
  • Use an app to maintain receipts and trip information or make notes on each receipt to help you stay organized in case your filing system becomes messy.

Tax Rules Fluctuate From Year to Year

Be sure to check the rules at the start of the tax year to know the requirements and deductions you can take. This can help you get organized and not miss out on any tax breaks. For more owner operator tax tips, ask your tax professional to review your accounts.

Security Tips for Trucking Companies

The trucking industry is a prime target for theft and criminal enterprise. Thieves look for vulnerable trucks where cargo can easily be stolen. Fortunately, drivers can take measures to protect valuable cargo. Low-tech measures, such as king pin locks, glad hand locks or fuel-line shut-offs might slow the bad guys down, but aren’t always enough to protect a truck.

Security Starts With Awareness

Tight security for truckers starts before drivers ever get into the cab. Training employees about security issues can help them be more aware and understand why certain procedures are so important. Here are some tips to help your company implement solutions to cargo theft

  1. Use technology to route shipments. GPS tracking systems can now send a security alarm to the company if a truck goes off its route. Factor in security when routing. Avoid hot spots where cargo theft is higher.
  2. Have drivers maintain regular contact with dispatch.
  3. Keep cargo moving, because it’s more likely that a load will be stolen when it’s unattended. Teams are recommended to help keep cargo on the road and to give drivers another person to lean on when tired or losing focus. If a team isn’t a possibility, drive in tandem with another truck.
  4. Never leave trucks unattended or allow drivers to take a load home. Emphasize that drivers should always stop in well-lit places or a secure yard.
  5. When parking, put trucks tail to tail to prevent rear trailers from being opened with goods on board. Alternatives to parking tail to tail include parking against a building or another object that doesn’t allow the door to be opened.
  6. Offer specialized training against cargo theft. Teach drivers what to look for and how to drive with increased awareness.
  7. Make sure drivers know to be careful about what they say. Don’t talk about the cargo in the truck or give out route information, especially on the CB.
  8. Ensure all drivers follow delivery and pickup protocols. Make sure drivers request ID from personnel who unload trucks. Audit protocols periodically.
  9. Check for dishonest employees. Run background checks on all employees who have access to shipping and routing information. Watch for employees who are loose with standards and don’t allow security breaches to go unnoticed.
  10. Use low-tech measures. Drivers should take the keys with them when the truck is unattended and doors need to be locked. Before walking away from a trailer, check locks. It’s easy to be talking to someone at a rest station and forget.
  11. Be suspicious of people who claim you hit their car. This is a ruse that thieves use to get people to stop.
  12. Work with other trucking companies to get information about potential issues in your community and industry. Alliances can really increase the safety of cargo and drivers because you work together to prevent theft.
  13. Many thefts occur close to pickup points and terminals. Be extra careful after picking up a load. Give drivers time to get away from the pickup point before stopping.

When All Else Fails

Fleet owners should have a plan in case a driver is hijacked. Giving the load over to a thief is generally preferred than getting hurt or worse to protect the freight. Instead of fighting, teach drivers to be a good witness to give law enforcement a better chance at apprehending the criminals.

Observe everything. Don’t just look at what is happening but pay attention to sounds and what is being said. Notice details. Keep a business card with company information and contact phone numbers in your wallet or on your person. Notify the authorities immediately.

Cybersecurity Issues

It doesn’t matter whether your company is small or large, cyber threats are a growing problem in today’s business industry. Hackers aren’t only trying to steal information or data. Some just want to create chaos by disrupting the infrastructure of an important industry. Cyber security for fleets has to be a priority. Here are some tips to help your company create and maintain a plan that prevents security issues:

  • Train employees to generate strong passwords and to recognize phishing emails
  • Have a way to encrypt emails which contain secure information
  • Use best practices for security protocol
  • Use comprehensive antivirus and malware programs
  • Update software and operating systems for security patches
  • Limit password attempts
  • Be proactive in maintaining your website and OS
  • Backup your software
  • Have a disaster recovery plan in place
  • Review your IT department and update as necessary

Audit Your Security Infrastructure

Don’t be afraid to check drivers and other employees to ensure that they are operating securely. You may find gaps in your plan by conducting audits. Talk to others in the trucking industry to find out how their businesses are operating safely. Make safety and security part of your regular risk management plan to prevent theft or hacking.

How Long Can Truckers Drive Before Taking a Break?

Regulations are in place for all commercial truck drivers to ensure they are not being overworked. A tired or worn out trucker is a danger to his or herself and everyone else on the road. The main restrictions on drivers are the hours they can drive and mandatory breaks. These rules are set by the United States Department of Transportation.

Duty Periods

The DOT breaks the time a driver is working into work and duty periods.  A work period is like a work week, whereas a duty period is like a work day. Because drivers do not always work conventional hours, DOT regulations are based on the actual hours worked and not specific hours during the day. So, for example, a work week could start at 5:00 pm on a Tuesday or 3:00 am on a Saturday and can be different for every trucker.

There is a seven-day work period for truck drivers. Drivers can work seven days in a row but must have a break of at least 34 hours in a row before starting a new seven day work period. To understand this better, consider this schedule:

  • Bert ends his seven day work period on Sunday at 6:00 pm. Following the 34 hour rule, his start up time would be 4:00 am on Tuesday.

The work period runs from the start time and date to that date and time the next week. For example:

  • If a driver begins the work period at 6:00 am on Sunday, then it ends at 6:00 am the next Sunday.

To begin a new work period, a trucker must have ten hours off work. The total number of hours that can be worked in a work period is 60.

Each duty period lasts 14 hours, which is known as the 14-hour rule. Drivers can drive for up to 11 hours during the duty period. However, after driving for eight hours, the driver must take a break of at least 30 minutes. Breaks of any kind count against the 14 hours duty period time. Here’s an example of a daily schedule that follows this rule:

  • Bert starts his work day at 6:00 am.
  • Bert takes a 30 minute break after eight hours at 2:00 pm.
  • He then drives from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm.
  • He takes another break to eat dinner from 4:00 pm until 5:30 pm.
  • Bert only has one more hour that he can drive, so he drives from 5:30 pm until 6:30 pm, at which time he reaches his destination.
  • Bert may then work unloading the truck or doing other non-driving duties until 8:00 pm when his 14 hour period is over.

So, the driver can drive for 11 of the 14 hours and do other things, such as getting fuel, for the other three hours. At the 14 hour limit, though, the driver can no longer drive and must take 10 hours off before starting a new duty period.

Exceptions

As with most things, there are exceptions to the basic rules. If a driver is starting and ending at the same location for a one day assignment, then the driver may work 16 hours. The actually driving time, though, is still limited to 11 hours. If there is a lay-over, then this exception cannot be used. This can only be used once in a period and requires a 34 hour break before it can be used again.

Bad weather can slow a truck down, so this can also cause an exception to be allowed. If road conditions are bad, a driver can take up to two extra driving hours during his or her duty period. The 14-hour duty period limit, though, still stands. This exception can only be taken when the extra driving hours are needed to reach a safe place to stop and get off the road.

Penalties

If a driver does not comply with DOT rules on breaks and work hours, there are penalties that will be assessed. These include:

  • Revocation of driving privileges until a rest break is complete
  • Fines at the state and federal levels
  • Reduction in carrier’s safety rating

A carrier may face even stiffer penalties at the federal level, especially if it is found to have knowingly made drivers break the law.

Possible Changes

It can be tough for drivers to maintain the hour and break requirements, especially when under pressure to get loads to their destinations on time. Many find the 14-hour rule to be especially difficult when break times are included against it.

Because of this, some lawmakers think there is a need for changes in the DOT hours of service. A bill, called the REST Act, is currently being proposed to change the ruling on breaks counting against the 14-hour limit. The act seeks to give drivers up to a three consecutive hour break period that does not count towards their 14 hours. The Act also aims to use this new three hour break to eliminate the 30 minute break requirement.

Regardless of whether changes occur or not, DOT is strict about the hours a trucker can drive. This is to help prevent them from driving when tired or otherwise unable to pay proper attention to the roadway, thus keeping everyone on the road safer.

How Truck Drivers Can Avoid Rush Hour Traffic

Ask any truck driver how they manage to avoid rush hour traffic and you’ll likely get a sarcastic answer or a chuckle in response.  This may be due to the fact that rush hour, in some locations, never really ends. Instead, the heavy flow of traffic continues night and day without really ever ceasing.  A few examples of cities like this include Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York City, Atlanta and Dallas.

Meet the 14-Hour Clock

While some truckers respond to the humor that there is never an end to rush hour, others may react with a surprising level of frustration. Instead of talking about frustrating traffic, you may find yourself in a bizarre conversation about a 14-hour clock and forced bedtimes. Those not familiar with the ever-tightening driving laws in the trucking industry need only ask a driver to understand the startling level of frustration many professional drivers are experiencing.

Basically, the 14-hour “On Duty Shift” law was put into effect in July of 2013. Groups lobbying for safer highways and roadways frequently come up with ideas to help ensure drivers get enough sleep and are not a danger to other motorists because they are driving drowsy. This law states that a driver cannot legally work more than 14 hours out of 24 and no more than 11 of those hours can be spent driving.

Unfortunately, work, in this law, is defined as being on duty. And for a trucker, being on duty can mean being stopped in a traffic jam, waiting to have your trailer loaded, completing a pre-trip inspection, even taking time off to use the restroom. This ungainly law creates some truly bizarre timeframes as drivers are completely controlled by a button that starts the clock and a different button that says when their day must be complete.

The 14-Hour Clock and Rush Hour

Before drivers were forced to comply with a clock that was seemingly counting down the minutes before they must stop for the day, many drivers chose to avoid rush hour like the plague. Today, drivers with only a certain amount of time remaining on that clock no longer have the option of pulling into a rest area and sleeping or resting for a few hours while they wait for traffic to lighten. Instead, they must contribute to the traffic problem hoping that commuters in a hurry will leave enough room in front of them and behind them that they will not be involved in an accident.

Methods for Coping with Rush Hour

There are a few tips for professional drivers who simply cannot avoid driving in rush hour. They certainly do not take the stress out of the drive but may help to lighten the load just a little.  A few of these tips include:

  • Know when rush hour hits – Each major city seems to have a life ad traffic pattern of its own. Keep a record of what the typical times of day rush hour occurs and do your best to avoid them.
  • Take a break beforehand – In cases where rush hour cannot be avoided, try to take a quick break beforehand. Even a 10-minute stop to walk around and eat a high-protein snack may help a driver to be at his or her best.
  • Complete focus on the road – Make sure your truck is well organized and things are put away correctly. This way you can make sure nothing starts rolling around in the cab of your truck and your entire focus can be on the road. Also, avoid snacking, changing the radio stations or using the CB radio in rush hour traffic as any distraction can lead to an unfortunate accident.
  • Check Google Maps – Before entering a city where there is sure to be rush hour traffic, take a break and check Google Maps. Quite frequently it will show where the worst traffic spots are and even show different routes that may save time and frustration.
  • Maintain recommended spacing – Maintaining the correct spacing between your rig and the cars around you is easier said than done, especially as some drivers see a truck as the perfect opportunity for a lane change. Be ready for automobiles to pull in front of you, or to pull to close to the back of your trailer and respond appropriately.
  • Pay attention to blind spots – It can be difficult to pay attention to where each car is in relation to your semi, especially in rush hour traffic, but practice can make perfect. Some drivers talk to themselves about which cars are where. This helps them notice when one vehicle disappears into one of their many blind spots.

A New House Bill

A new bill has been proposed in the House of Representatives that many drivers are rooting for. This bill would let truck drivers take a break of up to 3 hours that would not count as part of their 14-hour limit. Should this new bill pass, drivers would once again be able to stop and rest before hitting (and contributing to) rush hour traffic.

Simple Ways Your Trucking Company Can Be More Eco-Friendly

During the course of operating your trucking company, you might have wondered if there are steps you can take to be more environmentally friendly, no matter how minor those steps might be. You’ll be pleased to know that there are actions that support eco-friendly trucking companies. Find out how you can do your part to preserve Mother Earth without going to great lengths, or great expense.

Careful Route Planning

Simply taking out time to plan your route and have any other drivers you have plan their routes go a long way in saving resources as well as money. Traffic jams, construction and poor weather conditions can all increase your traveling time and the emissions churning out into the environment.

Slow Down

Pay close attention to the posted speed limit. Slowing down just five miles makes a big difference in the emissions your trucks are putting out. Going back to the tip touched on above, by meticulously planning out your route, there’s less chance of you needing to rush to make it to your destination on time. Additionally, get into the habit of looking both far and near while driving so you can slowly start slowing down when you see a field of brake lights coming up.

Recognize Opportunities to Turn Your Truck Off

When the opportunity presents itself, turn your truck off rather than leaving it on and burning gas (as well as money). Whenever you’re at a truck stop, take advantage of electrification systems or auxiliary units so you can keep the temperature in your truck comfortable without using your own diesel (and money).

Take Good Care of Your Truck

Properly maintaining your truck and its equipment are essential to allowing it to operate at peak efficiency, saving money and doing your part to preserve the environment. Just like you would with a regular automobile, you want to keep up with fluid levels, proper tire pressure and adhere to a routine maintenance schedule as recommended by the truck manufacturer. Taking proper care of your truck is not only great for the environment, but goes a long way in avoiding breakdowns and similar issues later on down the road, which saves money, time and frustration.

No matter how great of a job you do when it comes to taking exemplary care of your truck, it’s not going to last forever. If your current truck is older than seven years, not only is it likely to have poor emissions control, it might be time to think about retiring that truck.

Upgrade Your Equipment

With the money you save on maintenance and diesel, you can look into adding aerodynamic panels to your truck. What they do is help boost your overall fuel efficiency, and you’re sure to love how they make your truck look. There are also exhaust control devices, engine upgrade kits and engine repowers, some of which make for great options for older truck models.

Don’t Forget the Office

You can take your eco-friendly practices outside your truck and inside your base of operations. Specifically, consider starting a recycling program with designated bins. Taking steps to ensure lights are turned off in rooms that aren’t in use and doing the same with computers and equipment saves money as well as electricity. Having meetings devoted to enacting new eco-friendly practices with your drivers and staff helps ensure everyone is aware of what they can do to go green.

Intelligent Logistics

While planning routes and deliveries, bear in mind where different loads are going. If two or more are headed for the same endpoint, do yourself (and the Earth) a favor and think about combining them. Doing so saves time while maximizing efficiency.

Stay Informed of Current Regulations

The Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have taken steps to create regulations specific to the trucking industry in response to global warming. It’s best that you know what’s going on with both regulatory bodies so you know what to expect down the line and to better ensure you don’t fall behind on the latest requirements. Keeping your finger on the pulse of the latest requirements and developments gives you plenty of time to make all necessary changes, which is better than scurrying and playing catch-up before a deadline that’s right around the corner.

Look Into Alternative Fuels

There are alternative fuels you might want to consider if you’re concerned about the impact diesel has on the environment. Specifically, you can choose between propane, electricity, CNG and hydrogen. Do your research to see which you feel is a good fit for you, your company and your budget. Additionally, there might be special credits or write-offs you can take advantage of by switching to an alternative fuel, which can offset any investment you have to make to change fuel types.

Having a more eco-friendly trucking company doesn’t have to take a lot of time or money. Put these suggestions into action and see how they work for you and Mother Nature.

 

Tips for Starting Out As an Owner Operator

There’s nothing quite like owning your own business and being your own boss, but you have to take care to make the most of your investment of time, money and energy. The right approach and information can mean the difference between success and failure, so be sure you’re armed with new owner operator tips as you build your trucking company.

Know How You’ll Bring in Money

You likely have a loose idea of how you plan on making money as you’re sketching out your truck owner operator business plan, but you’ll be much better off solidifying that idea as much as possible. As an owner operator, there are two main ways to make money: leasing to a carrier and operating on your own by booking your own loads.

If you choose to lease to a carrier, you’ll need to get in touch with recruiters to see what will be expected of you as a driver in regards to how long you’ll be out, the pay you can expect and the type of insurance you’ll need. Be sure to talk to drivers as well to get a balanced idea of what you can expect if you choose to work with a particular carrier.

Like the idea of booking your own loads? Chat with brokers and potential customers, and check out load boards as well. Be clear on what brokers will expect from you and the type of equipment and truck you’ll need to be successful. Know that if you’re brand new to the trucking industry, you’ll have a lot of work ahead of you if you decide to book loads on your own.

Save as Much Money as Possible

Besides money coming in, you’ll also need to think about the money going out as you put your business together. If you don’t yet have a truck, save up as much as possible on a down payment or leasing your truck. Not only will your equipment payments be lower if you offer up a hefty down payment, you’re more likely to have an easier time securing financing with a sizeable down payment.

Besides money for your truck, you also have to think about operational costs. You’ll need trucking insurance and funds for out-of-pocket expenses, maintenance, food, fuel and unexpected repairs. There might also be a period where you’re unable to make runs because of a mechanical breakdown, so plan your budget accordingly.

Boost Your Credit As Much As Possible

Speaking of financing, something else you can do is increase your personal credit score as much as you can before applying for financing. Request a free credit report and look over it for any mistakes or discrepancies that need to be corrected before lenders pull your credit. Pay all bills on time, early if possible, and do your best not to use any more of your credit if you don’t absolutely have to. While you may have to put off launching your business for a little while as you increase your credit score, doing so will only benefit you later in the form of low interest payments, which means more money to funnel into the success of your business.

You might also want to look into getting a business credit card so you can make purchases specifically for your business. This is a good idea so you can keep your personal spending separate from your business spending. Just like your personal credit score, take steps to keep your business credit score as high as possible at all times.

Plan for Preventative Maintenance Before You Need It

Also be sure you think about preventative maintenance, even if you plan on purchasing a brand new truck. While you’re exploring options for which truck you think is the best fit for your business, look into how much preventative maintenance will cost. Even if that maintenance is several years away, putting money back for it now ensures you not only have a means to pay for that necessary maintenance, but that you don’t have to put that maintenance off. Just like with a regular automobile, taking care of small issues and taking steps to keep your rig as fully functional as possible helps avoid unnecessary breakdowns and the equally unnecessary expenses that come with them.

Think About Your Personal Relationships

If you have a spouse, significant other or family, think about how your relationship with them could change while you’re on the road. Issues can develop with you being away from home, so be sure you have this discussion with your loved ones about how you’ll address any problems that might come up in the future so that you don’t risk a disruption in your business or personal life.

Have a solid foundation underneath you before becoming an owner operator. The right insight paired with a little foresight is sure to serve you and your aspirations well.

The ELD Deadline Has Passed: Now What?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration put into effect a new mandate for truck drivers regarding how they log their hours. The ELD mandate went into effect on April 1, 2018 and requires all drivers to now use an electronic logging device to track and record their hours of service. These devices are installed into the vehicles and automatically record driving times. If a driver is found to not have an ELD and not be using one to log hours of service, the driver will fail an inspection and not be able to drive.

What Happens When a Truck Is Not ELD Compliant?

The rules under the mandate indicate that on and after April 1, 2018, all drivers must use an ELD. If a driver is not using one, he or she cannot drive and must be placed out of service. They will not be required to stop driving at an inspection point, though. They can continue to their destination, but cannot drive after that. The driver cannot drive again until after a ten hour period even if he or she becomes compliant within that time. Drivers may face fines if they are not compliant with the law.

How To Ensure Compliance

Drivers and carriers must take ELD requirements seriously to avoid penalties. To ensure compliance, drivers need to choose a device from the list of FMCSA-approved ELDs. It is also important for drivers to remember that not all electronic recording devices are created equal, and therefore, not all are approved. The devices that will comply with FMCSA regulations all draw information from the engine automatically. Also, as part of the mandate, a driver must have with him or her in the truck the user manual, ELD malfunction sheet and data transfer instructions.

Once they have a device, truck drivers need to learn how to use it. Having it is not enough to be completely compliant. It is important that a driver knows how to transfer the information on the ELD because this must be done during inspections. In addition, every driver must know how to log out.

Dealing With Common Issues

Since ELDs are being used to monitor service hours and ensure drivers are staying within the limits and operating legally, it is imperative to ensure the information on the device is accurate. However, there have already been some common issues that are causing problems for truck drivers.

As with any electronic device, an ELD can malfunction. This was taken into consideration when the law was implemented. If their devices malfunction, drivers are allowed to use a paper log system for up to eight days while the ELD is repaired. The eight day period can be extended but a request must be made. Extensions are typically granted if the device is not accurately recording hours due to an internal issue, but decisions are made on a case-by-case basis.

ELDs have an edit feature that every truck driver needs to know how to use. Edits may be required in many different situations to fix issues with recorded hours that were not actually drive hours. Only a driver should edit information in the ELD because the driver is the one ultimately responsible for the information. Edits made by others have to be approved through the system before they are recorded. If a driver does not okay an edit, it will not be recorded.

The device keeps a record of both edited and unedited versions of the logs, so any mistakes can be fixed and edits cannot be used to get around the hours of service laws.

Another common issue is hours when the driver is not the one behind the wheel yet they are recorded as drive hours. The best way to avoid this issue is to assign a maintenance log in for anyone else who will drive the truck. For example, if the truck requires maintenance, then whenever the truck is driven by maintenance personnel, they need to use the maintenance log in. That way, the hours are going under something and not being left for the driver to have to worry about.

While the new ELD rule can be great for many reasons, such as reducing paperwork, some may find it frustrating. However, being compliant with the FMCSA’s ELD requirements is mandatory. Drivers are the ones who ultimately hold the responsibility to ensure compliance. They need to be aware of the rules and know how to use the device properly or they could face penalties.

What to Discuss During a Trucking Safety Meeting

Letting your drivers know that safety is key to success is imperative when running a large or small fleet. One of the most common ways to do this is to hold regular safety meetings where instruction, safety talks, innovative ideas, discussion and policies may all be reviewed

Professional drivers are, in actuality, some of the safest on the roads when compared mile for mile to drivers of automobiles. Not only do they know how to evaluate traffic, control their speed and yield repeatedly, they know that their safety, and that of other drivers on the road may depend on how well they can do their job. Introducing safety videos and holding regular driver safety meetings can reinforce policy, provide new and innovative ideas and remind drivers of required industry standards.

Fleet Policy

Without a stated fleet policy, it is impossible to have a continued company commitment to that policy. A fleet policy should be more than just a set of rules. Instead, it should be written to encourage drivers to engage in a safer driving culture.  Some items in many fleet policies include:

  • Company commitment to safe driver training
  • Driver seat belt policy
  • Definition of driver personal use allowance
  • Expectations for MVR reviews
  • Committee set up to review accidents

Having such safety policies such as these in place is only a small part of making it part of your fleet culture. To do this, management must communicate frequently and positively about each facet of the policy being sure to follow the policy when drivers face both negative and positive consequences.

Ongoing Communication

Driving a semi can be a long and lonely job. Communicating with your drivers can help them feel as if they are truly part of your team. These communications can include tips on getting enough sleep or drinking enough water, a truck related joke of the day, a shout-out to drivers who have exceeded expectations and reminders about safety.  Attaching a safety-related email signature can also ensure that the drivers get the safety message without feeling overwhelmed by it.

Conference calls are another way to communicate with over the road drivers about safety items. Though drivers are not legally allowed to manipulate a cell phone while operating a vehicle, a good Bluetooth headset can make such conference calls easy to attend while on the road.

Many drivers thrive on competition, so company-wide contests that recognize a driver’s commitment to safety are a great idea. The fact that they might increase a driver’s awareness of safety is even better.

Safe Trucks

Let your truck drivers know that the vehicles they are driving are safe. For instance, letting each driver in the fleet know about the tire review and replacement policy may help to put their minds at ease. Nothing is worse for a professional driver as having to wonder when a tire will blow on the freeway, and how far the pieces will fly. By letting your drivers know that you understand their safety concerns about tire wear and tear, you will help your drivers feel safer.

Along with tires, each vehicle in the fleet should undergo routine maintenance, and each driver should be familiar with the schedule. By updating your drivers on this type of maintenance, they will know that they need not worry about the next safety inspection or oil change because you have their vehicle covered.

Insistence on Safe Habits

A fleet policy should always include a discussion about the importance of safe trucking habits. Not only do these fleet safety talks show that managers value the truck and the load, but also the safety of each and every driver. One habit that many drivers forgo is wearing a seatbelt. Managers can use many different reminders, safe driving videos, incentives and tabulations to help drivers remember the real importance of seatbelts in a truck and in a personal vehicle. Managers may also want to remind drivers that seatbelts help everyone on the road, not just the truck driver.

Recognize Safety

Making sure to recognize safe drivers and reward their efforts publicly can help to increase the overall safety of the fleet. Such rewards might include having no traffic violations, no accidents or now insurance claims. Ongoing records of safety such as many years with no accidents or violations should be recognized and rewarded with larger rewards such as paid time off or short paid vacations.

Having a stated safety policy is the most important item on the list for encouraging safety. Making time for regular truck safety meetings runs a close second. Let your drivers know that it is worth the time to learn about how all can be safer as they cross the byways and highways of the United States.

How Owner Operators Can Reduce the Headache of Bookkeeping

While you might enjoy being the owner and operator of your very own trucking business, you may feel you can do without the accounting and bookkeeping aspect of the job. Luckily, you don’t have to become a master of record-keeping to handle your company’s finances. Here are few tips to get you up and running.

Make It a Daily Practice

Do yourself a favor and get into the habit of carving out time every day to handle owner operator expenses. It’s easy to leave the task for tomorrow or the weekend, but doing so just makes the work pile up more and more. Not only does daily bookkeeping make your life easier, you’ll also have a more accurate picture of how your business is doing so you can plan and adjust accordingly. After all, you don’t want to make business or financial decisions for tomorrow when you don’t have a clear picture of what happened yesterday.

Use the Right Software

There are more bookkeeping and accounting software options available than ever before. Explore your options to decide the best fit for you and your business. Specifically, you might be better off with a cash-based system that allows you to count your income as you receive payments and your expenses as you take care of them. Don’t be afraid to try out different types of software (especially if there are free trial offers) until you find one that’s a solid fit for you.

Consider Going Digital

Because paperwork can take up a great deal of space and become cumbersome to organize adding even more time to your day-to-day workload, go digital when it comes to keeping up with financial documents. This is an especially great idea if there’s already an abundance of paperwork you have to deal with on a daily basis. Keep all those invoices and bank statements on a cloud where you can easily and quickly access them from a computer, tablet or smartphone.

Learn How to Properly Manage Your Cash Flow

One of the first things you should learn when it comes to bookkeeping is the ins and outs of cash flow. Knowing how much money you have available right now can mean the difference between paying your suppliers and employees on time and getting hit with late fees or having team members quit on you. Money or payments you have coming later in the month won’t do you much good right now, especially because those future payments might be delayed.

Prepare for Audits Before They Happen

As a business owner, the last thing you want to deal with is the IRS sniffing around. Bookkeeping for truck drivers involves a great deal of preparation, including audits. Head trouble off at the pass by keeping your personal expenses and accounts separate from your business expenses and accounts. Get and save the receipts for every purchase you make on behalf of your business, no matter how insubstantial that purchase might be. You never know when you’ll need them either for yourself, or for an audit.

Get a Business Credit Card

Business credit cards are a solid idea as you work on keeping your business finances separate from your personal finances, mainly because you’ll have fewer monthly statements and paperwork to keep up with, even if you are going digital. While you can always keep track of your receipts, using a credit card cuts down on time and can make your life that much easier.

Don’t Forget About Tax Deductibles

Speaking of the IRS, don’t forget to look into tax deductibles and write-offs when you’re buying office equipment. For instance, some computers, printers, company vehicles and business software might qualify for tax deductibles. When it’s time to buy equipment for your business, it’s a good idea to have a list of qualifying brands and models that qualify for deductibles before you start shopping.

Bring In the Pros

As stated earlier, there are plenty of accounting and bookkeeping software options for business owners to take advantage of, but nothing beats the advice and insight of a professional accountant who’s familiar with how the trucking industry works. Should you ever feel you’re in over your head when it comes to keeping up with your trucking company’s financial health, or if you have a question you can’t find the answer to, turn to a professional.

Even if you do have an easy time keeping up with your business accounting, it’s still a good idea to check in with a professional accountant a few times throughout the year for financial advice, and to make sure you’re doing everything right. You don’t want to find out the hard way that your business isn’t doing nearly as good as you might have thought.

Bookkeeping is made easier when you have the right tips, software and expert help. Fulfil your business potential by taking care of your company’s financial health. Best of luck!