Paperwork Fraud: Don’t Be A Victim

Outside of the industry, people think that truckers deal primarily with large objects and various types of freight. However, when it comes down to it, you probably spend a lot more hands on time with various types of paperwork. Sure, the freight’s there, but it’s the paperwork that accompanies this freight that you rely on. Is your paperwork in order? Falsified paperwork is more common than you might think and is a contributing cause of theft in the trucking industry. Protect yourself this holiday season by staying alert and by making sure your paperwork is always legitimate.

Bills of Lading

Bills of lading are designed to protect both truckers and shippers alike. They outline the terms of your contract with the shipper and ensure that both parties are aware of charges, delivery requirements, etc. While bills of lading often protect, fraudulent versions can actually do a lot of harm.

Bill of lading fraud can take on many faces, but a few common manifestations include:

·         Fraudulent Release Forms- A fraudulent bill of lading or auction release form has the potential to trick the holder of an item into releasing it to an unauthorized party. While not a big problem for truckers, this is something shippers should pay close attention to. Carefully check all documents before releasing a shipment. Make sure paperwork is in order and compare forms (color, style, paper type, etc.) to known legitimate forms looking for counterfeits. 

·         Signed as Delivered Without Delivery- A signed bill of lading is your key to payment once a load has been delivered; some truckers falsify these forms to get payment on loads not delivered. Often these falsified forms are processed through factoring companies or quick pay programs so the payment is made before the fraud can be discovered.

·         Incorrect Forms- Protect yourself when picking up loads by carefully checking the bill of lading before leaving the pickup site. The items loaded on your truck should match the inventory listed on your documentation. Check serial numbers, etc. to ensure that you have the right load and accompanying paperwork. Any agreed upon terms should be listed on your bill of lading. Pay attention to any restrictions on delivery, especially those that could result in docking of pay (guaranteed delivery dates, etc.). Taking pictures of your load (especially any previous damage) and paperwork can help to protect you should trouble arise.

Certificates of Insurance

Is your insurance up to date? Falsified certificates of insurance can be a big problem in the transportation industry and are something we all should look out for. We make it easy for you to provide legitimate copies of your insurance information using our simple online tools.  

Permits and Other Documents

Permits are another paperwork area with the potential for fraud and theft. Make sure that you file for permits yourself or that you use a reputable permit company. Familiarize yourself with the permits needed for each state and with the way each permit should look. Make sure the information listed on your permits is correct from load size and weight to truck information to commodity information.

As we enter the holiday season make sure to keep yourself safe from paperwork fraud by staying aware. Make sure your paperwork is in order and have a happy, safe and productive holiday season this year.

 

Occupational Accident- Who Will Pay Your Medical Bills If You Get Hurt On The Road?

When you get hurt at work, Worker’s Comp comes to the rescue covering medical bills, rehab expenses and more. This important insurance coverage is paid for by your employer. However, in an industry like trucking where many are self-employed owner operators or lease operators, a work injury can prove disastrous. Who pays for your medical bills if you don’t qualify for Worker’s Comp and are hurt at work? How can you protect yourself and your family?

Worker’s Comp- How Does It Work?

Worker’s Compensation is a special state regulated program designed to protect employees and employers alike. Employers purchase work comp insurance which is used to pay for lost wages, medical care, etc. should an employee get hurt on the job.  That insurance  protectsemployers from lawsuits and provides for the injured employee and their family.

While Worker’s Comp policies are often required for employers, they are rarely required for self-employed people or independent contractors. This means a great number of truckers are unprotected when it comes to workplace injuries. Those looking at policies for themselves are often unable to obtain coverage or may find the rates to be out of budget.

Transportation inherently carries a lot of risks. You can be injured while tying down a load, slip and fall on icy pavement or fall while climbing in to your truck’s cab. Injuries can happen at jobsites, pick-ups or drop-offs and anywhere in between. Being on the road puts you at an increased risk for vehicular accidents. Just like any job, working in transportation has its risks. If you are an owner operator or a motor carrier with lease operators, you may want to consider purchasing an insurance policy to protect yourself.

Occupational Accident Coverage

While owner operators and lease operators often are unable to obtain Worker’s Comp insurance, they do still have options. One popular and affordable choice is occupational accident coverage. These policies often provide similar protection to a Worker’s Comp policy, but are available to those working for themselves or that have independent contractors working for them.

Every policy is different, but many occupational accident policies cover things like:

·         Accidental Death or Dismemberment

·         Survivor’s Benefits

·         Medical Expense Benefits

·         Disability Benefits (Temporary or Continuous)

·         And More.

We can help you find a policy that works for your situation and budget. Let our knowledgeable staff help you better protect yourself and your family. When accident strikes, we want you to be able to pay your medical expenses, bills and recovery costs.

If you get hurt on the job, are you protected? Let us help you find the occupational accident policy you need.

Will the Changes to Freight Broker Requirements Impact You?

Brokers and freight forwarders play a valuable role in the transportation industry often acting as the go between for carriers and consumers. They match willing trucks with loads that need hauling and help get goods from one end of the country to the other. Since those doing the shipping are often unaware of the intricacies and difficulties involved in transportation, brokers and freight forwarders save carriers a lot of trouble by helping ensure everything is ready to go. As any busy trucker knows you don’t have time to spend hours on the phone; brokers and freight forwarders deal with the customer so you can focus on driving (and getting there safely).

The FMCSA recently made changes to the requirements for freight brokers. Will these changes have any impact on you?

Freight Brokers Must Hold $75,000 Surety Bond

Beginning Oct. 1, 2013 the amount of bond a freight broker must hold increases to $75,000, up from $10,000. This is a big increase and will primarily impact small and new brokers. Group surety bonds are not currently allowed, but the FMCSA may revise this after evaluation.

Definition of Broker Changed

Another big change is a change in wording redefining broker as a person that arranges the moving of freight for a fee. The new law specifically prohibits motor carriers from brokering loads unless they are registered brokers. If you arrange for loads to be moved, you must register as a broker, even if it’s just a few loads on the side. Enforcement for this provision might take time to develop as it is difficult to determine how many motor carriers also broker loads.

Motor carriers that want to register as brokers should file an OP-1 Form with the FMCSA. Include your US DOT number, but leave the MC number blank. The FMCSA issues a separate MC number for brokering authority.

Actionable Changes You Can Make

The new laws mean changes for the transportation industry. Here are a few changes you might want to make in accordance with the new laws:

  •  Avoid accepting loads from unregistered brokers.
  •  Register with the FMCSA as a broker if you currently broker loads.
  •  Increase your bond amount if you are a registered broker.

How Will These Changes Affect You?

The full results of this change are yet unknown. It may result in less brokering fraud since it will be more difficult to start up a new operation. Bond premiums will be higher and more difficult to obtain. Freight rates may also increase since the new bond requirements will be more expensive, thus pushing up the cost of transportation. This may also lead to less competition and fewer brokers, especially small brokers. With fewer small brokers large brokers may increase profits and decrease payouts to owner operators. Larger bonds will provide more protection for non-payment. Only time will reveal the full impact of these changes on those across the transportation industry. The one thing we do know however is that these changes will make an impact.

While the FMCSA’s recent changes primarily deal with freight brokers, they will have an effect on all involved in transportation. How do you see these changes impacting you?

Report Claims Quickly and Get the Most from Your Policy

Crunch… it’s a sound no one likes to hear, especially when you’re driving a commercial vehicle.

Unfortunately, accidents do happen, even to the best drivers. In 2011 the FMCSA noted more than 5 million accidents reported to police with 273,000 involving large trucks. Safety can play a big role in helping you avoid these accidents, and when they do occur, knowing how to properly report your claim could be essential in getting you the most out of your truck insurance policy. When you have a claim make sure you report it quickly and thoroughly.

  Reporting a Claim- The Do’s and the Don’ts

  Do…

  ·         Get as Much Information as Possible– After an accident get as much information as possible. This will make it easier for your insurance company to figure out fault and ensure quick resolution of your case. Get as much information as you can from other drivers and passengers involved. Also make a note of any potential witnesses with their contact information.

  ·         Take Photos– A picture’s worth a thousand words, especially after a truck accident. Take pictures any damage (both vehicle and property), the accident scene (skid marks, vehicle positions, debris, etc.), the area where the accident occurred (road signs and markers) and any identifiers (license plates, insurance cards, etc.).

  ·         Contact the Police– While police may not come out to every accident scene, it is always a good idea to advise them of an accident, even if it seems minor.

  Don’t…

  ·         Delay– Report claims as soon as possible after an accident or event. Many truck insurance providers require that claims be reported within 24 hours or a higher deductible will apply. Having to pay double your deductible can greatly increase the cost of an accident. Save money by contacting us as soon as possible after an accident. We’ll help you deal with your insurance company.

  ·         Don’t Admit Fault– Never admit fault for accident, even if you think you might have caused it. Without understanding the complete picture behind the events, you don’t know whose fault an accident is. It’s possible that another driver was drinking or talking on the phone and is responsible. Don’t admit fault to other drivers or the police.

Do You Understand Your Policy?

  Every truck insurance policy is different, but understanding the details of yours is essential to getting the most out of your insurance, especially in an accident.  What’s your deductible? What are your requirements when reporting claims? If you don’t thoroughly understand your policy, take a few minutes and review it. The last thing you’ll want to deal with after an accident is trying to figure out your insurance coverage, although we’re happy to help if you need assistance.

Helping with claims is one of the many services we offer our customers here at Western Truck Insurance Services. We stay on top of your claim from the moment you report it to us, making sure you know what’s going on with your insurance company every step of the way. We only work with truck insurance providers that we trust and you can be sure that we’ll ask the right questions, get the best information and clearly relay any concerns to your insurance company. When we help you process claims you’ll know what’s happening, who’s handling what and how your needs are being met. Accidents are no fun, but with Western Truck Insurance Services by your side, they are a lot easier to handle.

  If it’s been awhile since you reviewed your coverage, give us a call. We can make sure your coverage is the best fit for your situation and give you a truck insurance quote for great coverage from some of the top truck insurance companies.

 

What Does the Future Hold for the Trucking Industry?

With ever rising fuel prices, stagnant cargo rates and increasing regulation, you might be worried about the state of the trucking industry. Are you going to be able to earn enough to support your family? What does the future hold? While we don’t have a crystal ball and can’t predict the future, careful analysis of the industry can shed some light on what changes you can expect in the coming months.

A series of recent investment reports about the trucking industry by Stiefel provide some valuable insights into what you may see in the weeks ahead. Let’s take a look:

·         52% of Truckload Carriers Expect Volumes to Grow Over the Next 12 Months– Increased volume means more work for truckers and higher rates, a very good thing for the industry.

·         CSA Scores Matter-80% of those surveyed indicate that some of their clients care about the safety scores of their drivers. Safe driving will not only help you to impress with your CSA scores, but also obtain the lowest possible rates on your insurance.

·         Driver Turnover Expected to Increase– As the economy continues to recover the turnaround for drivers is expected to increase from 100% to 150%, the level where it was before the recession. Truck drivers tend to switch between industries and as construction and other industries need more workers, driver turnover is expected to increase.

·         Sleep Study Requirement Could Lead to Shortages– If the FMCSA’s proposed sleep study requirement for high BMI drivers passes, a real driver shortage could result. Half of commercial licensed drivers have a BMI over 30. Sleep testing costs as much as $5,000. Many truckers will likely switch industries rather than submit to the testing. Fewer drivers could mean more money for those that remain.

·         Environmental Regulations Have Biggest Impact on Owner Operators– Potential new EPA regulations for fuel mileage could have a big impact on owner operators and smaller fleets. Increasing mileage will require big equipment changes. Smaller operations generally purchase equipment that can do multiple jobs; efficiency requirements may lead to highly specialized equipment that can only do one or two jobs.

·         Increased Expenses– The newer more efficient engines require more frequent maintenance. 40% of fleets reported increased expenses with the new 2010 engines while only 10% noted a decrease.

·         More Owner Operators Expected– Currently half of those receiving operating authority from the government are owner operators. As lease agreements become less lucrative, people decide to go at it alone. Stiefel expects many more owner operators in the coming months.

·         Less Reliance on Brokers– Carriers are choosing to use freight brokers less often. Brokers are most commonly used by companies making less than $25 million annually.

·         ELogs Becoming More Common-ELogs are becoming more common. Currently 42% of larger fleets are using them compared with 12% of smaller fleets. Some drivers are choosing to leave the industry rather than comply with these logs since they unveil unsafe driving practices fairly effectively.

·         Driver Shortages May Get Worse– While unemployment rates still hover at about 7.5%, in the trucking industry there are shortages of workers and they are expected to get worse. Increased regulation may lead to more drivers leaving the industry. Overall there are shortages in many areas in the industry: safety people, mechanics, drivers, etc.

What do you predict will happen in the coming months for the trucking industry? How will these predictions impact the way you drive? While the industry is constantly changing, one thing will always remain the same: we strive to bring you the best rates on great insurance.

How Can I Improve My SMS and SAFER Scores?

In our last blog post we talked a bit about SMS and SAFER scores. This month we’d like to take a deeper look at these scores and find ways to improve them. How can you reduce your scores? By better understanding your scores and taking a few simple precautions you can improve your ratings. At Western Truck Insurance Services we love helping you save money on your insurance and great safety scores might just save you a bundle.

Tips for Improving Your Scores

We want you to “Travel with Care” and a big part of this is safety. While improving your scores might help you save money on insurance, more importantly it will help you to become a safer driver, helping you to make home after those long hauls and ensuring that the roads are safe for all of us. Here are some tips for improving your scores and becoming a safer driver.

·         Buckle Up– With long hours on the road it is tempting to leave that seatbelt unbuckled, but this is one easy way to protect yourself. Buckle up as soon as you get into the truck. Make it a habit.

·         Hang Up– Cell phone violations are a big deal. Make a commitment to not use your phone while driving. Instead focus on the road. You can check your text messages and make important phone calls when you come to your next stop.

·         Inspect Yourself– Don’t wait for violations to be discovered at an inspection; inspect yourself. Periodically give yourself a mental inspection and see how you’d do. Are you log books up to date? Is your truck in good repair? Are you speeding? Finding your potential problems before an inspection will give you time to make the needed adjustments and become a safer driver.

·         Check Your Data– When was the last time you used DataQs to check your safety data? Just like you should regularly check your credit score, you should check your safety scores for errors too. If you find any inaccurate information, get it checked and amended.

·         Educate Yourself– Even the safest drivers can use a little reminder now and then. The FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) has created an online resource that commercial drivers can use to improve safety practices. Common driving errors are discussed with tips for improvement. Short video clips are available to further teach and train. This is a great resource for any commercial driver.

·         Make Safety a Priority– Inspections might catch violations, but if you’re doing everything you’re supposed to do these violations will be few and far between. Focus on safety, not on your scores. When you institute safe driving practices the scores will follow. Safety should be your first priority. It’s more important than getting a load to its destination on time or squeezing in a few extra miles in the day.

What are you going to do to improve your safety ratings? We encourage each driver to take a few minutes and renew their commitment to driving safely. SMS and SAFER scores might help you to remember the importance of safety, but even without these scores we want you to get there safe.

 

SMS and SAFER Scores: An Introduction

The importance of safety in trucking can’t be overstated. Your life and the lives of others depend on your ability to safely get from Point A to Point B or anywhere else you may travel. Safety records, like your SMS or SAFER scores, help measure adherence to important safety practices. These scores provide an important snapshot into your safety record and can have a big impact on your insurance rates.

SMS vs. SAFER

SMS stands for Safety Measurement System. It is an on-road safety and performance measurement system utilized by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The system was designed to change and adapt as new technologies and measurement guides are established. It is updated regularly (keep updated about any changes by checking the FMCSA website). Check SMS reports here.

SAFER stands for Safety and Fitness Electronic Records and is a system that provides safety information to both the trucking industry and the public online. You can search company safety snapshots free of charge using a company name, DOT number or MC number. Snapshots provide basic information about inspections, violations and crashes. More detailed information is available for a free by requesting a SAFER company profile.

How Are Scores Determined?

Both SMS and SAFER measure and report safety violations, but they do so a little differently. For example you are able to access a great deal of information about motor carriers and their violations for free using the SMS search option. You can find out not only how many violations are on a record, but also the specifics of these violations. SMS rates violations by severity. A parking violation might carry a weight of one while a more serious violation like inadequate brakes will be more serious. On the other hand SAFER only provides basic information in its free carrier snapshots.

Any time a violation is reported it leaves a negative mark on your record that can be seen by potential clients, employers, insurers, etc. Safer drivers are more appealing and a smaller risk and in turn will typically receive lower rates on insurance. Too many violations can result in penalties, fines and investigations.

SMS reports include information in a variety of BASIC categories including:

·         Unsafe Driving

·         Hours of Service Compliance

·         Driver Fitness

·         Controlled Substances and Alcohol

·         Vehicle Maintenance

·         Hazardous Materials Compliance

·         Crashes

How to Check Your Score

Knowing what your reports look like is essential to protecting your safety reputation. Motor carriers should regularly check their reports for accuracy. Keeping safety on your mind and striving to have a clean safety record will help you to improve your driving and possibly even lower your insurance rates. You can check your scores online from the FMCSA website. Check SAFER reports here and SMS reports here.

Correcting Errors

As you check your reports look for errors. The SMS results are based on state reported crash and inspection data. If you find an error you can report it using a portal known as DataQs. You can report errors or concerns for investigation.

Here at Western Truck Insurance Services we want you to Travel with Care and that means driving safely. Not only will safe driving help you save money on your insurance, it will also help you to make it home safely after a long journey on the road. Keep checking back and future posts will teach you some tips for improving your safety scores.

New Hours of Service Go Into Effect This July- Are You Ready for the Changes?

Do you wish you had a little more time on your hands? Working as a trucker often means long hours, many more than the typical American worker. While numerous people punch the time clock at their 40 hour a week jobs, some truckers drive as many as 82 hours any given week. If you feel like you need a vacation, you’re not alone, but the change in the hours of service rules from the FMCSA probably wasn’t the type of extra hours you were hoping to receive. These new rules mean big changes for many truckers and will have a real impact on how you work, how you drive and even on your insurance coverage starting in July of this year.

What Are the New Rules?

The new rules go into effect in just a few months; familiarize yourself with them now so you’ll be ready to follow them come July. Here are some of the highlights:

·        Number of Total Driving Hours Per Week Reduced- One of the biggest changes in the new hours of service rules impacts drivers who drive the maximum number of allowed hours each week. Currently an average of 82 hours of weekly driving time is allowed, but once the new rules take effect this number will decrease to 70 hours per week. No changes have been made to the number of allowed driving hours each day which will remain at 11.

·        Changes to 34 Hour Restart- Drivers working long hours often utilize the 34 restart to gain additional allowable driving hours during the week. After taking a 34 hour break the number of hours driven is reset to 0, allowing drivers to get a clean start on hours for the coming week. With the new rule each 34 hour restart must now include two consecutive 1 am to 5 am periods (driver’s local time). This reduces fatigue and allows the body to get optimal, nighttime sleep. Additionally the restart will only be available just once each week (168 hours).

·        30 Minutes of Rest Required Every 8 Hours- While the changes to the maximum number of weekly hours and the 34 hour restart will only effect truckers driving long hours, one provision will impact almost every trucker on the road. Starting in July all truckers will be required to take a 30 minute break every 8 hours. This break can be taken at any time, but you must never remain on duty for more than 8 consecutive hours without taking a break. You don’t have to rest during your break; it can be spent getting a meal, taking a walk, etc. as long as you’re off duty and not working.

·        More Information About the New Rules of Service- Get all the details about the new rules of service by reading the full report from the FMSCA. They have also prepared a helpful question and answer page that may answer some of your biggest questions regarding the upcoming changes.

The new regulations won’t just change the way you drive; they can also impact your insurance rates. Safety violations, including hours of service violations, can leave a negative mark on your SMS (Safety Management System) scores, which could potentially lead to higher insurance premiums. However, the reverse is also true. Truckers that consistently observe safety regulations and avoid receiving violations can often improve their insurance rates and save money. Whether you’ve got a few violations on your record or a perfectly clean report Western Truck Insurance Services would love to help you find the best rate possible. While trucking regulations change, one thing that will always remain the same is our focus on quality and helping drivers like you save time and money on great truck insurance.