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!

Simple and Delicious Meal Prep Ideas for Truck Drivers

Living a healthy lifestyle and consuming nutritious foods on a regular basis can be a real challenge for those who spend the majority of their time on the road. The stress of irregular work hours and the difficulty of finding fresh, healthy food can make meal prep for truck drivers a nightmare. However, preparing easy meals for truckers can be simple, especially with a bit of preparation and strategy.

Fresh Vegetables

When deciding on food to pack for truck drivers, vegetables are often an easy and delicious choice. They are relatively affordable, high in nutritional value, and easy to find, and as long as you have access to a refrigerator, they are perfect for long-haul trips. Try packing one or more of the following types of vegetables before your next trip:

  • Carrot sticks
  • Broccoli
  • Zucchini
  • Cucumbers
  • Celery

If you find yourself getting bored with your normal vegetable routine, try adding a bit of peanut or almond butter to your celery. Some vegetables will taste even better when tossed with your favorite seasonings or vinaigrette dressing. Just be sure your vegetables are fresh and you don’t drown your vegetables in calorically dense dressings and nut butter.

Fresh Fruit

Much like fresh vegetables, fresh fruits such as apples, bananas, oranges, and grapes can be tasty and nutritious at the same time. Consuming fruits regularly is a great way to stay hydrated and obtain the important vitamins and nutrients your body needs to stay energized and healthy. When choosing fresh fruit, try to avoid fruits that are bruised or dull in color. If you absolutely cannot find fresh fruit near you, look for fruit cups that contain juice instead of high-fructose corn syrup.

Nuts and Seeds

Raw nuts and seeds such as almonds, cashews, and sunflower seeds are high in protein, fiber, and “good” unsaturated fats. Many of them also contain omega-3 fatty acids, which can lower your chances of heart problems, as well as vitamin E, which can help reduce the amount of plaque that accumulates in your arteries. Roasted seeds are known to be an excellent source of zinc, which has been proven to be beneficial for men’s health. When choosing nuts and seeds, try to avoid items packed in salt, and consume them sparingly—even though they are nutritious, they are still high in fat. If you are really craving something sweet and salty, try making your own homemade trail mix by adding dried fruits and a bit of chocolate to the nuts of your choice.

Boiled Eggs

Eggs are packed full of nutrients, and they are relatively simple to prepare. Eggs are high in protein, vitamin D, iron, and vitamin B2. Their whites also contain nutrients such as selenium and cholesterol, and many brands of eggs now contain omega-3 fatty acids, which can keep your heart healthy and lower your risk of heart attack and stroke. Boiled eggs will also store well as long as they are kept at a safe temperature.

Greek Yogurt

The nutritional value of many types of yogurts can be questionable, but Greek yogurt is high in protein, and many types are low in sugar. Most brands of Greek yogurt contain anywhere from eight to 12 grams of protein, as well as considerable levels of calcium and vitamin D. The cultures contained in yogurt have also been known to aid in digestive health and regularity. With so much to offer, consuming Greek yogurt is the perfect way to handle your ice cream cravings.

Protein Bars

Protein bars are a popular healthy snack, and they can be found in virtually every grocery store in the country. Once only consumed by bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts, protein bars have become mainstream and are often substituted for entire meals. They contain relatively high amounts of protein and come in a wide variety of flavors and textures. When choosing a protein bar, be sure to carefully examine the fat and sugar content before making a final decision. In an effort to boost sales and appeal to a wider variety of palates, many protein bar manufacturers have opted to add unhealthy amounts of sugar and fat to their products. These types of protein bars can be immensely unhealthy when consumed on a regular basis.

Muffins

Contrary to popular belief, muffins can be tasty and nutritious. They also store well, making them ideal for long trips. In general, homemade muffins that incorporate fresh oats, nuts, fruits, and seeds tend to be significantly healthier than prepackaged grocery store and coffee shop muffins. They are much lower in sugar, and many people add healthy add-ins such as protein powder to increase the nutritional value.

The Importance of Planning Ahead

As mentioned above, meal prep for truck drivers can be simple with just a bit of preparation and planning. High-calorie, sugar-laden foods may be more convenient, but your body will thank you if you choose to consume the healthier options listed above instead. To make meal preparation easier, try packing items that store well before your trip so you don’t have to keep running to the store.

Recognizing and Preventing Depression in Truck Drivers

All too often, the reality of life on the open road does not measure up to a driver’s expectations. Many new drivers are lured into the field with promises of big money, time at home, paid time off and on-the-job training. Once the newness of the job has worn off, however, reality begins to take a toll on a driver’s mental health.

Hardships of Over The Road Driving

In truth, driving a semi truck full time is an incredibly difficult job. The term “road warriors” is very fitting once the hardships are factored in. Depression in truck drivers can be the end result for many who are unprepared for the realities of life in an 18-wheeler. Some of these hardships include:

  1. Loneliness – The life of a trucker is lonely and solitary as drivers spend hundreds of thousands of miles each year behind the wheel. Yes, Bluetooth headsets enable drivers to reach out to family and friends and chat as they make their way across the state or country, but when each phone call is over, the driver may still feel isolated.
  2. Lower than expected pay – Many drivers have taken on this type of job in an effort to help with bills at home. When they find out that their pay is not as much as they were promised, many drivers feel trapped in a career choice that they do not know how to get out of.
  3. Poor nutrition – Studies about the link between nutrition and mental health have been performed for years and findings usually state that eating less nutritious foods leads to declining mental health of truck drivers and feelings of overall happiness. Drivers who spend much of their time on the road have a difficult time eating healthy foods, and may have more depression because of it.
  4. Feeling of powerlessness – Though many drivers are in the job to help out with expenses at home, they often feel as if they cannot do enough from the driver’s seat to actually help with things that are going on at home. When they find that loved ones are ill, that cars have broken down or that there is a home repair waiting to be done, these feelings of powerlessness can build to an uncomfortable level.
  5. Ongoing stress – There are many stressors that come along with a trucking job. From government regulations, schedule changes and logbook rules to other drivers on the road who are not paying attention or seem to hate all semis. Finding ways to manage these stress levels in the cab of a truck can be difficult if not impossible.
  6. Irregular sleep schedule – New logbook regulations create an irregular schedule for most drivers on the road today. Instead of being able to stop and sleep when they feel drowsy, many are required to keep on driving in order to get the maximum number of driving hours allowed by law. Day and night are no longer taken into consideration, only the computer in the truck that tells a driver when they may and may not be driving. Unfortunately, this disruption of circadian rhythms has also been linked to depression.

Ways to Prevent Depression

Truck drivers and employers who understand and are willing to address the possibility of depression for over the road drivers can often make changes that help to prevent the dark cloud from settling in the cab of the truck in the first place.

One thing that can help drivers is a sense of community within the trucking industry, and with the benefit of the internet, finding a community can be as easy as the click of a mouse. Some companies work to keep drivers talking and connecting based on age group, experience or route similarities. Other companies have found that pairing an older driver with a younger driver, even if they drive different vehicles, can form a mutually beneficial teacher–student relationship. There are many driver forums available on the internet where drivers, in their downtime, can ask questions, tell about the hardest part of their day or just chat with someone who understands.

Having healthier eating habits can help drivers fight depression as well. Employers can help in this effort by making sure each semi has a working refrigerator and microwave, so drivers will not feel fatty truck stop food is their only option. Some employers even host incentive programs based on healthy eating options or weight loss among a group of drivers.

Exercise might be the very last thing on a driver’s mind, but getting regular exercise has been proven to be effective in fighting depression. Trucking companies should have exercise facilities available at the hub offices and should take time to train drivers on how to get exercise when they are not at the hub. Some drivers carry a bike so they can take a short ride when time allows while others keep a set of exercise bands in the truck so they can stretch and get some exercise before they go to sleep.

Realizing that depression among truckers is a very common problem is the first step in helping to find a cure. Employers and drivers who work together are sure to find a solution that benefits everyone involved.

Do You Carry the Right Tools for Getting Your Semi Unstuck?

If your loads are always delivered to well-paved parking lots, chances are good that you never need to worry about getting your semi unstuck. Sadly, any trucker who’s been in the industry for more than a few weeks knows that smooth, well-paved lots and yards are not always the norm. Instead, drivers of 18 wheelers encounter many unexpected driving surfaces from soft mud and gravel to snow and ice.

Be Able to Identify a Potential Hazard Spot

Any driver who has managed to get their rig stuck would be the first to tell others to avoid this at all costs. A semi truck stuck in mud can cost the driver hours of stress and unpaid labor and may still result in the need for an expensive service-truck callout. Being able to identify and avoid places where a semi might get stuck is the first and most important step in avoiding them. Some places truck drivers should avoid, if possible, include:

  • Muddy lots
  • Any driving surface with soft sand
  • A yard with ice or snow
  • Loose gravel

Anytime drivers question the firmness of a parking lot or delivery site they should park the truck and take a stroll in order to test the safety of the driving area. Sadly, being able to identify possible hazards does not always mean that a trucker can completely avoid them. Many drivers in colder climates know that the chances of finding a well-plowed place to park and sleep at night are slim to none. At other times, drivers may pull up to a delivery address to find that the entire lot is under construction and is covered in mud, sand or loose gravel. Skipping out on the delivery to avoid getting stuck is just not an option.

Carrying the Right Tools

There is a certain peace of mind that comes with being prepared for any occasion. This is especially true if you know, as most truckers do, that money is made when the wheels are turning. On rare occasions where a parking lot or job site is not ideal, knowing how to get an 18-wheeler unstuck and having the right tools can save both time and money. Following is a list of tools that can be carried easily in any 18-wheeler.

  1. Heavy-duty chain – Truckers know that calling a tow truck or service truck is expensive and time consuming. Those who carry a heavy-duty chain with them may be able to ask a fellow truck driver for a quick pull in order to get unstuck.
  2. Shovel – Though the thought of digging a semi truck out with a shovel might be overwhelming, there are certainly times when a shovel can help free a tractor trailer stuck in mud. A shovel can assist in moving ice or loose sand, or can be just the right tool for a driver who needs to add a dry material such as dirt or ashes to the area just under the wheels for additional traction.
  3. Tire chains – Though chains are not always required, especially in warm-weather areas, it is always a good idea to keep a set stored in the truck. Not only do they come in handy when driving on snow or ice, they can give much-needed traction in mud or sand.
  4. Traction aids – There are many traction aids available that can be easily carried in the cargo compartment of a semi. Tire claws and traction jack boards are only a few. While it may cost a little bit to outfit your rig with these items, they can save a lot more money down the road when you don’t have to call for a tow truck.
  5. Rock Salt – Having a 5-10 lb. bag of rock salt in the semi can also help in case a trucker is stuck on ice an unable to free the rig.

By having these items easily available, truck drivers are able to get on the road more quickly and get back to earning.

Know Your Rig

Knowing and understanding the vehicle you drive is a must for all drivers, but those who drive 18-wheelers can really benefit from a little additional knowledge.  For instance, drivers who understand that tires heat up as they are rolling down the road may also understand the importance of letting the tires cool down, then rocking their entire tractor trailer forward and back a few times so that the snow or ice which has melted around the warm tire will not freeze the vehicle into that spot come morning.

The more steps a truck driver can take to be prepared before getting into a sticky situation, the better. A few tools carried in the cargo box can make all the difference.

Tools Every Truck Driver Needs On the Road

In their quest to make their deliveries and keep clients happy, truck drivers have to make sure they bring everything they need to keep their operation, truck and health going strong while out on the open road. There’s a lot that can go into a truck driver’s toolkit, but knowing the most important items goes a long way in saving room, time and potentially even money along with the trucking company’s reputation.

High-Quality Sunglasses

New truck drivers might not realize how being exposed to abundant sunlight for long period of time can have a negative effect on their driving abilities. Sunglasses are essential tools for truck drivers, mainly because they keep them from getting headaches, becoming tired and straining their eyes, which can lead to more problems later on. Because shades are likely to break or become lost, it’s a good idea to buy more than one pair at a time for quick and easy access in case the current pair becomes damaged while out on the road.

Flashlight

The exact opposite of sunlight, darkness can also prove problematic for drivers. A good flashlight helps drivers see better at night, inspect their trucks while stopped after the sun goes down and feel safe. Drivers will have several different flashlights to choose from, including shake flashlights. In any case, it’s best to have plenty of batteries available.

Backup Smartphone

While everyone has a smartphone, it’s especially important that truck drivers have backup smartphones with them as part of their must-have truck tools. It’s also worth considering having a phone devoted specifically for trucking. Trucking phones should have high-definition cameras to take images of or scan important documents, and apps designed to improve productivity as well as find great prices on fuel. Some truckers might prefer to keep their personal lives separate from their professional lives, and having two different phones can go a long way in achieving this goal.

Utility Knife

Utility and pocket knives are great for a number of uses both on and off the road. Twine can be cut from a haul, and drivers can also use the blade of a knife to take tire tread depth measurements.

GPS Navigation

This one might seem obvious, but it’s important to point out here that any GPS navigation devices truckers buy to add to their truck driver tools should be made specifically for OTR truck drivers rather than passenger automobiles. It’s also best to opt for devices with high-quality maps that are upgraded on a constant basis to account for things like construction, traffic jams, road closures and the like.

Work Gloves

There’s more to truck driving than just sitting behind the wheel; it can also be quite physically demanding work. For that reason, drivers should have a good pair of work gloves with them at all times. Cowboy gloves are a good option for protecting the hands and making work easier.

Mallet & Hammer

Along with a utility knife, a mallet and hammer can also make a truck driver’s job that much easier and more efficient. Not only can the combination be used alone, it can be used with other tools as well. And speaking of tools…

Spare Parts

Even a well-tended truck can have its share of problems while on the open road. Having such spare parts as air/fuel lines, liquid wrench, antifreeze, bulbs, fuses and brake fluid can take care of emergency fixes and help with on-the-road maintenance.

Spanners

Besides adjustable spanners, oil filter spanners are also good to have in a trucker’s arsenal. That being said, long-haul drivers might find they’re better off with metric and complete US spanner sets. It never hurts to complete the collection by adding socket spanners as well.

Cash

While truck drivers might know where the physical road takes them, there’s no guarantee where the road of life will take them. That’s why it’s a good idea to have physical cash on hand; you never know when a card reader will go down or the nearest ATM is several miles away. Having a couple hundred dollars in physical cash is sure to come in handy sooner or later.

Water

Don’t find out the hard way how much the price of bottled water can fluctuate between different states. Besides the price difference, it’s also a good idea to have water on hand to stay properly hydrated.

Slow Cooker

It doesn’t hurt to have a slow cooker while on the road. Healthy meals aren’t always within easy reach while traveling, but that doesn’t mean drivers have to do without or settle for poor-quality food. Having a slow cooker makes it easy to not only eat healthily, but eat when you want to rather than having to wait to pass a place you like.

Truck driving can be that much more satisfying with the right equipment and tools. Before you set out on the road again, make sure you have these packed and ready to go.

You Can Run A Successful Trucking Company: Here’s How

If you’re a truck driver thinking of starting your own business, or if you just have an entrepreneurial spirit and want to start your own trucking company, you’ll want to proceed the right way. While there’s certainly much to be gained by having your own business, you’ll want to have the right info for starting a successful trucking company rather than a company that’s destined to be an expensive failure.

Make Sure You Have Quality Equipment

No matter how great of a business plan, name or location you have, you’ll need to have it all backed up with the right equipment as you learn how to run a trucking company. Once you’ve compiled a list of all the equipment your company will need, you’ve got to decide whether you’ll be better off renting it all or buying it outright. While buying equipment guarantees you’ll be the owner, you might prefer to lease equipment that’s bound to become obsolete in the next few years. There’s also the fact that you might not be in a financial position to buy what you need, especially if you hope to grow your trucking company as much and as soon as possible.

Identify Your Customer Base

After you’ve decided how to take care of your equipment needs, it’s time to turn your attention to finding customers to deliver to and work with. Load boards are most certainly a great place to start while getting your feet wet, but one of the main problems with these boards is that you’ll probably have to be the lowest bidder. There’s also the fact that you’ll find load boards are quite competitive, making it hard for a new business like yours to get a good foothold.

You’ll be better off splitting your time and focus between load boards and making sales calls to find customers on your own and start forging relationships and business connections that way. Once you’ve managed to prove yourself to customers through sales calls and solid customer service, you could find you no longer need to even think about looking at load boards.

Learn How to Bid and Handle Common Expenses

When it comes to biding, you’ve got to learn how to find the balance between offering customers a good deal and actually making money. This is likely to take some getting used to, so give yourself plenty of time when you’re first getting started.

To help strike an equilibrium, get to know your expenses. For instance, how much do common truck repairs cost? If there are any trucks that will soon need maintenance, how much do you think that will cost? What do fuel prices look like right now, and how might they change in the future? You might also have to charge more depending on where you deliver and how difficult it is to get to your final destination. Always have enough for unexpected emergencies, because there are bound to be more than a few when you least expect or want them.

Don’t Forget About the Back Office

What happens in the background of your business operation is just as vital as what’s going on in the foreground. If your trucking company has more than one employee, you might need office space to keep things running smoothly. If so, decide the size of office you’ll need to accommodate the size of your business, the office equipment you’ll require and what needs to take place in the office.

Should your business grow large enough, you may have to bring on additional employees, like a secretary. Be sure to account for this in your business plan as well as your expenses. In addition to paying a salary, you also have to think about taxes, benefits and the like. Even if you’re just getting started as a single owner-operator trucking company, it won’t hurt to do some research to see what you’ll be expected to handle should you decide to expand.

Anticipate Cash Flow Problems

Even when business is booming, there’s always a chance your business will bust in the future. Rather than wait for that to happen, go ahead and start planning for it now. Something else to consider is the fact that just because you deliver something today doesn’t mean you’ll get paid for it anytime soon; you might have to wait as many as 90 days to receive payment, which can throw your cash flow off track.

Look into freight factoring as a way to keep cash flowing in while still allowing your customers to pay in 40, 60 or more days. This gives everyone the best of both worlds without ruffling any feathers.

There’s a lot to being the owner of any kind of business, but there are special considerations to make when it comes to owning a truck company. Be sure to keep the above info in mind as you get started.