What Insurance, Permits, Etc. Do I Need to Get Started?

One of the biggest questions we encounter from new drivers is, “What do I need?” Interstate truckers need a variety of permits, registrations, insurance policies, etc. to ensure they are in compliance with various state and federal laws. We can help you with the specifics for your situation (just give us a call), but this will give you a good idea of where to start.

Permits, Authority, and More… What Do I Need?

The various regulatory permits and registrations needed can vary quite a bit depending on which states you’ll be running through, but there are a few basics you’ll most likely need. Let’s take a look:

·         DOT Number

·         FMCSA MC Authority

·         Truck Registration

o   IRP

o   Unified Carrier Registration or UCR (formerly Single State Registration or SSRS)

o   IFTA (International Fuel Tax Agreement)

·         Individual State Permits- Some states require additional permits and fees. Things like oversize and overweight permits only apply if your specific load requires it, but some fees apply to even standard sized loads. For example you may encounter Weight Distance Taxes, fuel taxes that are paid to the state directly (and not charged with fuel), property taxes, and other required permits and fees.

Insurance… How Much Coverage Is Enough?

Although you may need higher limits, depending on your circumstances, the following coverages are most common for trucking and transportation:

·         $1 Million Commercial Auto Liability

o   $1,000 Deductible  for Physical Damage Coverage

·         $100,000 Motor Truck Cargo

o   $1,000 Deductible Non-Owned Trailer Coverage

The best way to determine how much insurance you need specifically is to talk with one of our agents. We aren’t just here to sell a policy, but to educate, inform, and help you in your journey. We want you to have access to the highest quality insurance products at highly competitive rates. We can help you determine what coverage you need and which insurer can best provide it.

Getting started in the transportation industry can be confusing, but don’t let that stop you. We’re here  to help you figure out what you need so you can… Travel with Care.

Navigating CA CARB Regulations- 6 Essential Resources

If you drive a tractor-trailer in California, you’ve likely heard about the new regulations from the California Air Resources Board (CARB). The new environmental regulations have been slowly taking effect over the last several years and are now starting to impact small fleets and solo drivers. If you aren’t yet impacted by CARB regulations, you soon will be.

These regulations are complex and varied. The Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of your vehicle, the size of your fleet, the type of trailer you haul, and even where you drive (like ports and intermodel rail yards) impact which regulations apply to you and when they start applying.

To help you wade through the confusion, we’ve prepared a list of helpful resources to help you better understand the CA CARB rules. Keep checking back on our blog as well. We’ve got posts in the works to help you understand the changes so you can… Travel with Care.

·         Which Regulations Apply to You?– Are you confused about which regulations apply to you? This helpful questionnaire from the CA Air Resources Board will prepare an easy list of regulations based on your answers to 3 simple questions. If you have 5 minutes, you can quickly check out which regulations apply to you.

·         Take a Class– If you learn better in person, take a class. There are several classroom training courses available. Many of the courses (all of the ARB Compliance Training Courses) are free to take. Some are offered as webinars; if you have a computer and internet, you can attend wherever your next load takes you and you can even find archived webinar recordings for some of the courses. Checkout the complete list of available courses (click on the course title to see dates, times, and other registration information).

·         Watch a Video– While you’re waiting for that next load (provided you’re in a safe location of course), take a few minutes out to watch a short video on the CARB regulations. You’ll find a variety of informative videos on the ARB TruckStop official YouTube page.

·         Read a Summary– One of the best summaries of the regulations can be found here. It doesn’t cover everything, but it’s a great place to start.

·         Learn the Penalties– Do these new rules really matter? Check out the list of penalties if you don’t comply.

·         Get Help– Sometimes you just can’t find all the answers you need online. If you need personalized assistance, complete the Diesel Assistance Form and you can receive a reply by phone or email. You can also call in yourself at 1-866-6Diesel. Calls are answered between 8 and 5 Pacific Time Monday-Friday and a 24 hour voicemail system is available.

The CA CARB rules are confusing, but if you drive in California, you do need to learn them. Take a few minutes today and start looking at these resources so you can be in compliance.

 

EOBRs: Coming Soon to a Truck Near You?

Do you use an EOBR? It sounds like something out of a futuristic movie, but for many truck drivers an electronic on board recording device (EOBR) is simply part of their day to day, helping track hours of service, providing information to their employer about safety, and sometimes even offering navigational help. Since the devices first came to be, government agencies have been interested in using EOBR to improve safety records and cut down on violations.

What Are EOBRs?

Electronic on board recording devices (EOBR) aren’t a new technology at all. As early as 1990, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended the mandatory use of EOBRs on all heavy duty trucks. Since that time several attempts have been made to require these electronic log books for all commercial drivers although as of now these attempts have been largely unsuccessful and highly controversial.

If you aren’t familiar with the term EOBR, you might be more familiar with some of the other terms used to describe these devices. They may also be called ELDs (Electronic Logging Devices), e-logs, paperless logs, etc. The terms may be different, but deep down they are all basically the same devices.

Recent Proposed Regulations for EOBR

The latest big push for mandatory EOBR devices came this last March with the FMCSA proposing that ELDs be a requirement for interstate commercial bus and truck companies to improve HOS (hours of service) compliance. Speaking of the proposal Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said, “Today’s proposal will improve safety while helping businesses by cutting unnecessary paperwork – exactly the type of government streamlining President Obama called for in his State of the Union address… By leveraging innovative technology with Electronic Logging Devices, we have the opportunity to save lives and boost efficiency for both motor carriers and safety inspectors.”

The FMCSA believes that instituting electronic logs would reduce yearly fatalities by 20 and injuries by 434. Opponents to the proposed regulations fear that electronic logging could result in driver harassment and will lead to unnecessary expenses that won’t necessarily improve safety. The proposed devices would need to be integrated with the truck engine and be tamper resistant.

Electronic Logs: Will They Improve Safety?

While controversy remains over whether or not electronic logging devices are worth the investment, many large companies have chosen to adopt them voluntarily. For large organizations these devices can help companies stay on top of problems and provide better service to both their drivers and their customers. By using these logs to improve driver safety, companies can also reduce their insurance rates, often saving a substantial amount of money.

What do you think about electronic logs? Are you currently using them?

A New Addition to the Western Truck Insurance Services Family

Western Truck Insurance Services and Sentinel Financial are pleased to welcome TNT Insurance Services to their family. This addition will help us bring superior insurance value to our customers from coast to coast. We merged back on May 1 of this year and have been busy, busy, busy getting everything integrated.

These changes are very exciting for us and as our customers, exciting for you too. Let’s take a quick look at the specialized care and services we can now bring you at Western Truck Insurance Services.

·         More Experience– If you need experience to help you navigate through the rocky terrain of trucking, we’ve got it in spades. Together Western Truck Insurance and TNT Insurance have over 300 years of experience. We have the knowledge, skills, and expertise to help you.

·         New East Coast Offices– TNT Insurance is based out of Tampa, FL. We now have an east coast office ready to serve you. We are now here to help 12 hours a day so there’s always a convenient time to get the insurance or service you need.

·         Expertise for Towing Operations– TNT specializes in tow truck and truck insurance. This brings us enhanced expertise for clients with towing operations. TNT’s strong relationships with many tow insurance companies helps us to expand our reach and bring you more insurance offerings.

·         Personalized Service You Can Depend On– Do you need help with your FMCSA, registration, or filings? This new partnership doesn’t change any of the personalized services you’ve come to love from Western Truck Insurance Services. If anything the addition of new helpful staff will help us to serve you better.

·         No Fleet Too Large or Too Small– From an owner operator to a fleet with hundreds of trucks, we are ready to help and serve you. Western Truck Insurance is licensed in 19 states. We know that no two trucking operations are the same and can accommodate anyone from local drivers to nationwide truck drivers.

Let’s give a warm welcome to our new friends and partners from TNT Insurance. We look forward to the future and continuing to bring you the high quality insurance you’ve come to expect. Let us worry about your insurance so you can focus on the road.

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.