A Successful Trip Starts with a Pre-Trip Inspection

At Western Truck Insurance Services our motto is “Travel with Care”. We want you to get there safely, happily, and carefully every single time. Now, we can’t guarantee your safety each time you get behind the wheel, but we do know a secret to greatly increasing your chances of a successful trip: pre-trip inspections. They are required by law for a good reason, but all too often drivers slack on this important safety check. Have you mastered the pre-trip inspection?

How Long Should My Pre-Trip Inspection Take?

Are you a whiz at rushing through the pre-trip inspection? With a safety check this important, slow down and take your time. Five minutes isn’t long enough for a good inspection. How long should you spend? It really depends on your speed and familiarity with the truck. A good inspection might be over in 20 minutes or may take longer, 45 minutes or more. Make sure you check everything from the gladhands to the tires, and don’t forget about checking your tarps and binders too. Quality, not quantity, is what really matters on your pre-trip inspection.

When Do I Need to Perform Pre-Trip Inspections?

The FMCSA rule § 396.13 requires that drivers “be satisfied that the motor vehicle is in safe operating condition” before operating a vehicle. If you’re driving a truck you haven’t driven before, this will require a thorough inspection before you set off. If you’re more familiar with the vehicle and been driving it all day, a quick check may be in order. Daily inspections are a must and ideally you’ll be checking in for safety hazards throughout the day as well, just to make sure things are working as expected.

What Do I Need to Inspect?

Inspection requirements can vary from company to company and even from state to state. Know your specific requirements and when in doubt, over-inspection is better than under-inspection. This guide from the state of Oregon could easily fit on a single page (front and back) and serves as a helpful reminder of some components you may be missing. Think about keeping a copy of this, or something similar, in your truck to help jog your memory on those inspections. At a minimum the FMCSA rule § 396.11 requires:

  • Service brakes including trailer brake connections
  • Parking brake
  • Steering mechanism
  • Lighting devices and reflectors
  • Tires
  • Horn
  • Windshield wipers
  • Rear vision mirrors
  • Coupling devices
  • Wheels and rims
  • Emergency equipment

We’ve noticed that tarps and binders are often under-inspected, but can really lead to damage and injury when they aren’t in good repair. Check your tarps and binders too. When they start wearing out, replace them.

Will Anyone Know if I Skimp on Inspections?

It’s a busy day and you’ve got hundreds of miles to go before you run out of hours or maybe you’re fighting the clock with a daylight hours only restriction. You may think that skipping one inspection isn’t going to hurt anyone. Truth be told, it might. Pre-trip inspections are one of the best ways to protect yourself and others from potentially deadly crashes. Shirking those inspection duties can spell bad news if your logs are checked. If you get in an accident, that’s one of the first things they’ll look for. Even if no one else finds out you were lazy when inspecting, you’ll know. Do your inspections and do them right.

We want you to get home safely and know that pre-trip inspections are one of the keys. If you’ve been slacking on your inspections, make a change and do them right. Believe us, the hassle of the inspection is nothing compared with potential repercussions of an accident. And if you do run into trouble, know that we’re here and ready to help you.

Our Favorite Apps for Truckers

Make the most of your smartphone. This handy device isn’t just for checking emails and making calls on the go. With the right apps your phone can quickly become an indispensable work tool, something you use just as often as your logbook or your pocketknife. Here are some of our favorite apps for truckers.

Find a Truck Stop

When you need a hot shower or want to spend an evening streaming Netflix, you need the amenities of a truck stop. Wherever your travels take you, find a truck stop with ease using Trucker Path Pro. One of the top rated apps for finding truck stops this app can help you find and compare options, check fuel prices, and see real-time parking availability. If you have a specific chain you like to frequent, look for their specific app (most big name truck stops have one), but this app is ideal for checking out a broad range of available options. Available for Android or Apple.

Find a Rest Stop

Need a potty break? The USA Rest Stop Locator app can help you stretch your legs, check your load, or find an easy access bathroom anywhere in the U.S. Choose your state or browse the map and quickly find the rest stops nearest you. Available for Android or Apple.

Stay in Touch

You miss a lot when you’re away from home, but video chat apps can make it easier to stay in touch with friends and family back home. Skype is available for most mobile devices, including Android, Apple, Blackberry, Amazon Fire, and others. You can Skype with others for free if they use the service too or can call landlines around the world for set, per minute or per month fees. The Facebook Messenger app also offers video call options.

Log Your Hours

Ditch the paper log and go electronic, without having to spend a fortune on expensive software. If you want a highly quality, easy to use electronic log, try KeepTruckin, our recommendation for ELD mandate compliance. This program automates log audits, alerting to anytime there is an hours of service violation. If you’re tired of faxing in paper logs, go electronic with one of the most affordable and convenient options available. Free and paid plans are available.

Keep Up On Inspections

Manage your required inspections in a snap with the DVIR 2.0 Pre-Trip Inspection app. The app allows for the required signature and reports are easily emailed for up to 100 days. You can even add custom inspection criteria as needed. Available on Android.

Truck Insure On-the-Go

Sending insurance certificates has never been easier. Our mobile app allows you to quickly send your insurance information to brokers, clients, and others with just a few clicks. Fax and email sending options are available. If you use Western Truck Insurance Services for your truck insurance needs, this app is a must.

Do you use any of these handy apps? Which ones are your favorite?

 

ID Theft and Truck Drivers- Are You at Risk?

An estimated 17.6 million Americans fell victim to identity theft in 2015. Everyone is at risk, young and old, millionaire or living paycheck to paycheck. Truck drivers too. Learn the ways you can protect yourself from id theft, on the road and at home.

ID Theft Risk Factors for Truck Drivers

Truck drivers have a few unique risk factors for id theft. Do you increase your risk with any of these common behaviors?

  • You Shouldn’t Carry Documents – Is your Social Security card in your wallet? Do you carry your birth certificate with you on long hauls? Some drivers carry important documents in their truck, or worse their wallet, increasing the risk of id theft. When you carry these documents with you, the chances of them being lost or stolen increase. Whenever possible leave your important documents in a secure location, like a locked safe. Most of the time you won’t need them with you on the road.
  • Mail Sensitive Paperwork– You’re across the country and discover you need your birth certificate. What should you do? Many drivers choose to have their paperwork mailed,a risky proposition if you aren’t careful. If you do mail paperwork, choose services with tracking. If you fax sensitive documents, be very cautious. Choose a secure service for both the sending and receiving of the documents. If a copy will work, use one, rather than the original and make sure that it is clearly marked as a copy.
  • Using Your SSN on 1099s– Many owner operators use their personal Social Security number for business taxation purposes. Although this save you from filing a little extra paperwork, it can increase your id theft risk. Each and every time you book a load you’ll be sharing your SSN so the business can create a 1099 at the end of the year. Who knows how securely they store your information? See if you can get an Employer Identification Number instead. This number works like a SSN for your business and shields you from having to share your personal number for business purposes. Learn more from the IRS or your tax professional.
  • Using Free Wi-Fi– Free Wi-Fi is great for saving on data, but isn’t always the most secure. Use caution when using free Wi-Fi and avoid accessing sensitive pages. Save the online banking for a more secure connection.

Other Ways to Protect Yourself from ID Theft

The risk for id theft is real, but there is much you can do to protect yourself. Try these tips, many of which can be easily done from home or sitting in a truck across the country.

 

  • Check Your Bank Statements– Check your card statements often, looking for unfamiliar purchases. It can be harder for some truck drivers to spot fraudulent charges since they may use their cards at locations around the country. Keeping a detailed list of purchases and amounts will help you stay on track.
  • Use Credit, Not Debit– Credit cards have stronger fraud protections than debit cards and are generally a safer choice. Many credit cards offer $0 fraud liability as long as the purchase is reported within the designated window. When a fraudulent credit charge is under investigation, the purchase is put on hold and you’re not responsible for the charge. With debit, you may be without the money until the investigation is complete.
  • Check Your Credit– At least once a year you should check your credit, looking for any suspicious accounts. You can get your free credit reports from AnnualCreditReport.com, the only authorized source for your free yearly reports. This guide from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will help you learn what to look for and will point you in the right direction if you do find a problem.
  • Limit What You Share– Keep personal information sharing to a minimum. Use security settings on social media and give out your SSN only when necessary.

 

How do you keep your identity safe on the road?

The Latest Stats in Trucking

Have you taken the chance to review the Pocket Guide to Large Truck and Bus Statistics for 2015? This handy guide is released yearly by the FMCSA and gives those working the transportation industry an insightful look into the state of the industry. If you haven’t yet had the opportunity to check it out, we’ve pulled out a few of the statistics we found most interesting.

Trucks Carry a Big Majority of Our Nation’s Freight

It’s no secret to those working in the transportation industry, but without trucks, nothing would move. In 2012 trucks carried 70.2% of the total weight of freight moved across the U.S. Air (0.03%) and rail (11.1%) can’t even come close to competing with those numbers.

Large trucks accounted for 9.2% of all the 2,988.3 billion vehicle miles traveled in 2013 for a total of 275 billion miles traveled. There are more than 10.5 million large trucks registered in the U.S. (8,126,007 straight trucks and 2,471,349 tractor-trailers).

Seat Belt Use on the Rise

Seat belt use by large truck drivers is on the increase. In 2012, 74% of flatbed drivers wore seatbelts, but in 2013 that number increased to 82%. These increases are exciting, but we hope to see even higher numbers in the next report. If your truck is rolling, you should be wearing your seat belt. The percentage of drivers involved in fatality crashes without a seatbelt has been dropping considerably, down from 14.9% in 2005 to 9% in 2013.

Roadside Inspections… Everything You Need to Know

Make sure you read the section on inspections. There’s a great map that highlights the number of inspections performed by county (hint… California is a big state for inspections) and valuable information about the most common violations (log violations topped the chart). The information in this section can help you ensure that you’re not making common mistakes so you’re ready for your next inspection.

Fatal Crashes Statistics from 1975 to Now

Although fatal crashes involving large trucks have been on the rise the last couple of years, they are still much lower than they were in the 1970s and even in the 1980s. In 2013 there were 3,541 fatal crashes involving large trucks, fewer than the number of fatal crashes in 1975 with almost double the number of registered trucks. Clearly the changes that have been made from then until now have brought about positive change in trucking safety. What changes can we still make to ensure the roads are a safer place for all of us?

Take some time and orient yourself with this valuable information today.

All of these items, and more, can save you valuable money on your insurance. If you have questions on how you can apply this information to your risk management practices, give us a call and remember… Travel with Care!

Do You Have an Accident Prevention Plan?

If you don’t have an Accident Prevention Plan, each day on the road is just an accident waiting to happen. This might sound extreme, but the truth is, trucking is an industry with a lot of safety risks and potential hazards; if you aren’t actively preventing accidents, the potential for injury, including serious injury and death, is exponentially increased. What can you do? Create a safety plan and use it. This can help you find and eliminate potential safety problems before an accident or injury occurs. If you don’t have a plan, you need one. Create one today.

Accident Prevention Plan- A Legal Obligation?

An accident prevention plan is a good idea for any trucking operation, no matter the size (owner operator, small fleet, large fleet, etc.), but for many companies, it is actually a legal obligation. A workplace injury and illness prevention program is encouraged/required by a majority of states (learn about the requirements for your state here)and OSHA recommends that every workplace have one.

If you don’t have a safety plan, not only are you putting yourself (and your employees) at risk for an injury, you’re also exposing yourself to unnecessary liability should an injury occur.

Starting an Accident Prevention Plan- First Steps

Creating your first accident prevention plan can seem overwhelming; we’ve broken the process into a few easy first steps to get you started.

·         Look for Risks– Spend a few days looking for hazards and make a list. What safety risks are you or your employees likely to encounter? Getting your employees in on the brainstorming process can help you to identify more potential hazards. Past records of accidents, injuries, safety inspection violations, etc.  can be a valuable resource in pinpointing specific problems you’re facing.

·         Create Solutions to Risks– Once you have a list of risks, work on creating policies to eliminate or reduce these risks. How can you reduce the safety hazards you face?

·         Consider Training– A written policy is important, but so is training. If you notice safety violations or unsafe practices, consider some training. Knowing how to properly tarp, chain up, use PPE, etc. are essential skills every driver should possess.

·         Choose a Safety Supervisor– Who is in charge of safety? While safety should be something on everyone’s mind, it is a good idea to have someone actively in charge of company safety to ensure that it remains a priority. This person can also be a point of contact should illness, accidents, or injuries occur.

Resources to Get You Started

The following resources will be helpful tools as you create your accident prevention plan.

·         Guide to Developing Workplace Injury Program (California)- The State of California has created a comprehensive guide for developing a workplace injury program. While the information isn’t specific to the transportation industry (the guide was written for all employers), you’ll find it is easily adapted. This is a great resource no matter what state you live in.

·         Sample Plan (Texas)- What should your plan look like? You’ll want to adapt things to the way your  company does business, but this sample guide from the State of Texas can give you a good jumping off point.

·         OSHA Information for Transportation– The transportation industry has some unique hazards. This guide from OSHA will help you identify some of the risks, hazards, and training requirements you should address in your plan.

Do you have a safety plan? Create one today for a safer tomorrow.

 

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.

 

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?