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!

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.

Owner Operator Semi-Truck Financing

Getting a loan on a commercial vehicle can be a complex process. Lenders tend to be more lenient with semi truck loans, because the vehicle possesses high collateral value and is typically only used for business purposes. However, getting semi truck financing isn’t going to be a walk in the park either. You will need to show the commercial lender that you can make loan payments. Here are six things you can do to improve your chances of getting commercial truck financing:

1. Have a registered business.

Most states require an LLC or corporation to register through the Secretary of State. If  you are a sole proprietor, you should be able to show business income through your taxes. As a new sole proprietor, you may want to get an employer identification number (EIN) or have a doing business as (DBA) name. Your lender may also want you to have a CDL, a Motor Carrier (MC) number and USDOT number. Some lenders want to see some experience, at least two years, in the industry.

2. Work on your personal credit.

For new owner operator financing, you may need to have a personal credit score of 600 or more to qualify for financing. If you’ve been in business for a couple of years, you may have a little more leeway. As a sole proprietor, you are probably relying more on your personal credit than your business credit. The higher your score, the better chances you have to qualify for a loan and for a lower down payment.

If you have a lower credit score, you may want to find a co-signer or work on your credit score before applying for a loan. If you are behind on child support, have had a recent bankruptcy or repossession or have a tax lien, the lender may refuse financing. Take care of your finances before applying for a commercial loan.

3. Find a good truck to buy.

The lender may have specific requirements about the truck, for example, it may need to be less than 10 years old, or have less than 700k miles on it. This is to protect their investment as well as your business. Older trucks break down more frequently. The collateral value isn’t as high. However, provided the truck is in good condition, it’s easier today to purchase the truck through a private party or even an auction. Generally, you will need this information

  • Make, model, year and mileage
  • Serial number
  • Pictures of the truck
  • Condition report
  • Specifications of the sale, the seller, new or used truck, etc.
  • Check with the lender for everything you need to finalize the purchase

4. You will need money for a down payment and cash reserves.

Most of the time, you won’t qualify for 100 percent financing. Having a down payment of 10 to 30 percent will reduce your loan payment quite a bit and make the lender feel more confident in your ability to repay the loan. Your lender may also want to see a cash reserve of one to three months to cover repairs, insurance and expenses in case you have a slow month. It makes good business sense to have a little extra in the bank. You never know when you may have to wait for payment or have to take time off because you have the flu. Unexpected things can often upset your finances more than you realize.

5. Have insurance lined up.

Generally, you will need insurance to cover the truck before lender releases the money to pay for the truck. The type of insurance your business requires will depend on many factors, as does the cost of insurance. Make sure you have a policy lined up while you’re working with lenders.

6. Work with your lender.

Traditionally, owner operator loans were only available through financial institutions, such as banks or credit unions, but there are many more lenders in the marketplace today. Many online lenders have almost instant credit decisions, allowing you to have more options for commercial truck loans.

You may want to consider each company carefully before applying. First, lenders may have different qualification requirements. They may also specialize in different types of loans or only work with certain leases. Every lease application can affect your personal credit. Do your research first. Don’t just take the first approval you get. Read all the terms and conditions of the loan application before signing.

Enjoy Financial Freedom

Owning any type of business doesn’t mean that you will be free from responsibilities. You may not have a boss looking over your shoulder any longer, but your stakeholders will be expecting you to make payments on time. However, when you purchase your own new or used semi truck, you are on track to having financial independence. It will take hard work, but you can do it. Just make sure you take the time to understand the requirements of owning your own truck.

Winter Preparedness Checklist

During cold conditions, your business’s equipment is stressed. It’s not just your heating system, but the electrical, the windows and plumbing can all be affected by the cold. Use this checklist to prepare your business for brutal winter conditions.

Trucking companies need to be especially cautious and ready when the winter weather hits. There are simple steps you can take to prepare your fleet for winter driving and help avoid issues like frozen truck brakes.

Protect Your Business During a Cold Snap

When your business faces extreme temperatures, winter weather preparedness is very important. Preparing for winter season includes taking care of your building and your employees:

  • Have a chain of accountability within your organization. Ensure maintenance, building owners and business owners are working efficiently to get the building ready. You don’t want to duplicate efforts, but you need to make sure everything is getting done.
  • Inspect the building, making sure windows, doors and dampers are closed. Caulk all openings where cold air can enter the building. Have snow and ice removal arranged before you need it. Schedule a maintenance check during a storm or cold weather to keep everything running or at the least, to know when you’ll need to call in repairs.
  • Inspect the roof for leaks and debris. Make repairs when necessary.
  • Give your employees emergency contact information for snow removal, heating repair, utilities and road conditions. Have a plan for employees who cannot get out in bad weather conditions to keep everyone safe. Get your employees to sign up for weather alerts, either by text or through another app.
  • Expect flooding. Keep vulnerable equipment and stock out of harm’s way. Either move it to a location where water can’t reach it, or move it up on raisers.
  • Keep cold-weather gear on hand for employees, such as flashlights, blankets, gloves, hats, snow shovels and ice-melt chemicals. Make sure everyone knows where it’s stored and that it’s there for their use.
  • Make sure you have a list of client and employee contact information somewhere other than your computer, phone or electronic device. If the power goes down, you may not have access to that information.
  • Consider leaving a trickle of water running to keep constant movement in the pipes to prevent freezing. Know where the water shutoff to the building is. Turn off the water if the pipes do freeze, to prevent a leak when the water comes back on.
  • If the building does remain empty for a long period of time, have someone assigned who can check indoor temperatures and other issues.

Keeping Your Heating System Operating Efficiently

The heating system not only keeps your employees comfortable during the cold, but it also protects your inventory, equipment and plumbing from freezing. While some of these ideas need to be in place before a cold snap, preparing for winter season will keep your building from being affected in the cold:

  • Insulate all pipes. Inspect the sprinkler system and plumbing annually. Replace damaged insulation when necessary.
  • Inspect outside dampers. Clear all vents from snow and ice accumulation quickly.
  • Your heating unit requires power to operate. Have generators on standby to keep equipment operating through any conditions. At the very least, have non-electrical portable heaters for outages.
  • Be prepared to supply back-up power to heat tracing systems, if you have it.

An ounce of prevention is worth much more than a pound of cure, in this case. Protecting your pipes before extreme cold temperatures will prevent many problems, saving you the cost of repairs and downtime.

Protect Electrical Equipment

Cold, freezing conditions can cause power outages and downed wires. When electricity is restored, the sudden surge of power can destroy modern technology that is sensitive to power surges.  When cold weather is coming in:

  • Unplug equipment, isolating it from the source of power, protecting it from power surges. If the equipment must stay running, have a backup plan. Install surge protectors, batteries or another power source.
  • If you plan on relying on generators during a power outage, test them before you need them. Have a plan to refuel generators if the outage is extended.
  • When power is restored, plug in devices and turn them on one at a time.

Reminders for Good Measure

  • Check your business insurance policies to know what is covered and what isn’t. Know your biggest risks and find ways to minimize loss instead of relying on insurance. Keep the policy number and claim information handy, to know who to call when damage occurs.
  • Take pictures of the building before the storm. This will help you identify damage that occurs during a storm.
  • Have a procedure for handling damaged equipment and inventory.
  • Take pictures of damage. Call the insurance adjuster ASAP.

Have a contingency plan in place if the worse happens. Know who to call for restoration. Have a place to set up temporary shop if a disaster strikes your building. Although you may be limited if your business is a restaurant or retail shop, you should at least stay in touch with customers and clients to limit the impact.

Keep Truck Brakes Working in the Winter | Trucking Safety

The winter temperatures and elements are hard on any vehicle. The extra moisture in the air and on the roads wreaks havoc on every system in your rig. When water gets into the air brake system, it can cause corrosion and freezing, taking your rig out of commission for hours, maybe even days. The salt and chemicals used to keep roads free of ice and snow can get into the air brakes and cause corrosion and damage.

Frozen truck brakes and winter damage are preventable, though. How can you keep air brakes working in winter? You’ll need to take steps to winterize your rig and watch for damage. Preventative maintenance is key.

A Clean Air Supply

Whether you have foundation drum or air disc brakes, you should drain the air tanks of moisture and contaminants. When the air temperature shifts 30 degrees Fahrenheit or more, moisture can accumulate. If you experience this shift in a 24-hour period, you should check the air system after driving for another week.

Winterizing Drum Brake Components

Check the chamber housings for damage and corrosion. Corrosion attracts corrosive materials, leading to failure of the housing. Check that the chamber’s dust plug is correctly installed. Lubrication is an enemy of corrosion. All components in the drum brake need to be properly lubricated, the automatic slack adjusters, clevis pin connection points, cam tubes, shafts and bushings.

Any worn rubber seals can cause air to escape and moisture to invade the system. Get your rig checked before you drive in the colder months. Remember that it gets much colder in the mountains as early as September and can stay colder until May or even June, depending on the elevation. Always consider your route and the conditions under which you be driving.

Air Disc Brakes Winterization

Visually inspect the ADBs. Look for cuts and tears in the boots. A small tear allows moisture and contaminants to enter the caliper, causing it to corrode. Replace if necessary. Make sure the pads move freely in the carrier. If not, you’ll need to remove them, clean the carrier surface with a wire brush and then replace the pads. Check the thickness of the pads and rotors. Minimum rotor thickness is 37mm; friction thickness is 2mm or greater.

Replace Cartridges

If you drive in harsh or cold climates, replace the air dryer cartridge before the season. This prevents moisture from getting into the system and causing frozen truck brakes. Make sure to replace it with the right cartridge. An oil-coalescing cartridge needs to be replaced with a similar product to maintain the quality of the air.

Examine the air dryer’s purge valve. Look for signs of corrosion or an accumulation of grit. Clean it or replace it if necessary. This simple maintenance item can prevent malfunction during the harsher winter weather and save you time and headaches down the road.

What About Using Alcohol?

A traditional solution to treating frozen brakes is to add alcohol. Most experts agree that while this may solve your immediate problem, it will lead to long-term issues. It can damage the seals. Some air brake systems have an alcohol evaporator, which does keep air lines and reservoirs free of ice. However, you should only use approved products in this component. Check with your mechanic before trying to unfreeze air brakes using an alcohol product. It will be frustrating to be stuck, but if your vehicle is down for maintenance later, you haven’t saved that much time.

Driving Tips for Winter Safety

If you’re driving with air brakes in the winter, you have to keep the system dry and the pressure up. Make sure to allow even more stopping distance on wet and slippery roads than you would on dry roads. If your system doesn’t have antilock brakes, pump lightly on the brakes to maintain steering control.

Always check your truck before heading out on the road. Make sure the minimum operating pressure is no less than 100 psi for a truck with an air-brake system. It should not take longer than 2 minutes for air pressure to rise from 85 psi to 100 psi.

If you’re inexperienced in driving under winter conditions, check with your company to see if they have some training or another driver who can work with you to let you gain confidence in handling the rig in snow, ice, sleet and/extreme cold. It’s important to know how to handle mountains, country roads and city byways under wet and cold conditions. While it can be humbling to ask for help, if it saves your life, your truck and the lives of others on the road, that should be your concern.

Check all the components of the air brake system regularly throughout the winter to ensure proper performance. Poor maintenance can result in senseless deaths and injuries. It’s important to stay on top of brake maintenance all year long, but even more important in winter months. Take good care of your truck, and it will take care of you.

How to Make Truck Tires Last Longer

8 Tips for Making Truck Tires Last Longer

In today’s competitive trucking industry, safety should always be paramount. However, those familiar with running big rigs know that corners are sometimes cut in an effort to make a better profit. Sadly, the very corners that are cut typically end up costing a company more money down the line, whether it is in fines, tickets, accidents or in increased repair costs.

Take a Look at the Tires

The cost of tires for a semi can be staggering, ranging anywhere from $200 – $1,000 per tire.  Multiply this dollar amount by 18 tires per truck and trailer and many realize that making tires last can really impact the overall success of any small or large operation. Following is a list of 8 things that can be done to help make tires last longer as these 18-wheelers roll across the miles.

  1. Start Right – Scrimping on tires for your rigs may seem like a good idea at the moment, but losing a tire or two when time is of the essence can really multiply costs. When investing in new tires for your trucks, look for those that can hold up to the grueling mileage you want to get out of them. Though they may be more expensive, highly-rated tires have reinforcements, that are made to insure you get the most miles possible.
  2. Write it Down – Reviewing stats and costs can really help truck owners to know what their tire cost really is per mile driven. Keeping up-to-date records about tire purchases including brand, anticipated mileage, tire enhancements and initial cost is a must. Asking about how long 18-wheeler tires last is also important. Some tire companies provide software with their tires that helps store, sort and calculate such data. Additional software is also available that can be used by a trucking company or an owner-operator. Such systems use RFID chips in the tires as well as electronic gauges so that company mechanics can check a truck’s tires no matter where they are in relation to the vehicle.
  3. Keep it Clean – Newer truck drivers are often told that keeping their truck and trailer clean may help them get pulled over for inspection less frequently. Keeping tires clean can also help them last longer as snow, ice, salt or other road chemicals can break down a tire more quickly. Some drivers prefer to use a sponge and bucket of soapy water on their wheels, while others choose the convenience of a pressure washer that can easily reach the inside of the tire as well.
  4. Fill ‘em Up – Checking the pressure in all 18 wheels can take some time, but is a great way to extend the life of tires. Not only can improperly inflated tires wear badly and develop weak spots, they can also affect overall fuel economy. Many larger fleets are investing in automatic monitoring systems that will alert the driver and the fleet mechanic if pressure is low or if a tire is failing.
  5. EncourageGood Habits – Drivers who are well-trained understand that certain behaviors behind the wheel can shorten the life of a tire dramatically. These include speeding, braking too quickly and making excessively sharp turns. The same type of automated tire monitoring system that can send an alert when air pressure is low may be able to send additional alerts when drivers are engaging in any such behaviors which are shortening the life of their tires.
  6. Inspect Alignment – Keeping the tires of a semi aligned is just as important as with the tires on a car. Not only does this help a vehicle to ride more smoothly, it prevents tires from developing irregular wear patterns. Technicians familiar with the importance of taking care of truck tires will check tires, axles and trailers to make sure alignment is good.
  7. Use Clean Air – Using air that is clean and dry inside of truck tries can also help to make them last longer. Drivers should be trained to look for an air filter and in-line dryer on a compressor before using it to add air to a tire. Any water that gets inside a tire can immediately start breaking down the lining and steel belts which are both critical to the longevity of the tire.
  8. Get Metal Caps – Metal caps are of critical importance on commercial tires, as they are the first defense against air loss, dirt and water. To make checking and maintaining the air pressure easier, many drivers use metal flow-through valve caps.

Start Out Right for Big Savings

In order to spend less on frequent tire replacement and repair, it is sometimes necessary to spend more at the beginning. Buying highly-rated tires, insisting on good inflation and cleanliness habits, and utilizing automated monitoring systems and up-to-date driver training programs may cost more up front. Owners realize, however, that starting out right tends to mean big overall savings down the road.

How Long-Haul Drivers Can Stay Awake While Driving

Though many long-haul drivers may have been lured into the industry by dreams of the open road and freedom from the stress of a 9-5 job, the job of road warrior is anything but a dream. Instead, it is filled with many different types of stress that differ greatly from those in the jobs they may have previously held.

Turning Wheels Mean Dollar Signs

One of the most stressful parts of driving long-haul is often seen plastered on t-shirts, coffee mugs and posters in truck stops across the country. Though the grammar may make some people cringe, the well-known saying “If the wheels ain’t turning, you ain’t making no money” is one that is known across all aspects of the industry. In essence, it means that anytime the truck is not moving, it is not making any money for the owner.

This leads trucking companies to come up with creative solutions, such as assigning two drivers to the same truck, each sleeping while the other is driving. It does not matter, however, if drivers are alone, or if they have a partner sleeping in the back of the rig. The long miles drive across the country can feel even longer than they really are, no matter how excited they were to begin driving a big rig for a living.

Boredom Leads to Mental Exhaustion

Current log book regulations mean that gone is the day that a driver could make his way across the country only taking cat-naps. Instead, drivers today have enforced limits on how long they can drive before they are required to take a specific length of time off-duty. There is much heated debate about whether or not the current system of hourly regulations really work out best for those who are behind the wheel, but currently they stand as law.

On average, a trucker drives anywhere between 2,000 – 3,000 miles each week. Even with enough sleep or off-duty time, the long miles put in by truck drivers can lead to a very real mental exhaustion which can, if not recognized and planned for, lead to a driver falling asleep behind the wheel. No matter if they spend those miles listening to talk radio, to music, or talking on the phone via Bluetooth headset (drivers are not permitted to hold their cell phones while they drive), the passing miles and the hypnotic hum of the tires on the road can still lead to boredom and mental exhaustion.

Tried and Trusted Tips to Avoid Falling Asleep

Thankfully, drivers are typically willing to share with each other the tips and tricks that keep them from falling asleep while driving. Following is a list of ways that have been found to work for those who are looking for better ways of staying awake.

  • Healthy Food – Though it is so tempting to indulge in fast food meals while driving, many have found that healthy meals consisting of protein and complex carbohydrates help them stay awake for much longer than foods that are full of fats, salt and sugars. Healthy snacks work as well. Instead of grabbing a candy bar, truckers who want to stay awake prefer trail mix, or a bag of almonds. Having a mini-fridge and a small cooking oven in the truck are not only convenient, they enable drivers to eat much more healthy foods overall.
  • Switch up the Listening – Drivers should change up listening selections while driving. Alternate between music, talk radio, podcasts and digital books. This way, the brain will be entertained instead of falling into a bored, sleepy slump. And if all else fails, turning up the volume to ear-splitting levels and singing along seems to work as well.
  • Cat Nap – Taking a short nap before starting on a long drive can be incredibly beneficial. In fact, studies show that a nap that is under an hour can power you enough to stay awake for many more hours than had you taken a nap that lasted for a few hours. Drivers who find themselves becoming drowsy on the road can always pull over and grab a 20-minute power nap in order to make it to the needed destination.
  • Get Out and Move – Sitting for extended periods of time can be hard on a body too. Any time drivers feel sleepiness sneaking in is a good time to find a spot for some safe exercise. This can be as little as a few laps around the truck or as extensive as some push-ups, squats and a quick jog. Getting that heart rate up means the blood will be less-sluggish upon return to the drier seat.
  • Don’t fall for Caffeine – Good hydration is very important to staying alert. Unfortunately, sodas that are readily available in every truck stop do not aid to overall hydration. Even worse is the fact that drinking too much caffeine while driving can make a driver need to find a restroom much more frequently than if they had simply stayed with water.

No matter the reason for getting into the long-haul industry, the end result is typically the same after many miles driven. Being prepared to combat sleepiness and stay wide awake, no matter how long the road ahead, should be the goal of every road warrior.

How to Improve Semi Truck Fuel Efficiency

While semi trucks aren’t exactly known for having superior fuel efficiency, there are steps you can take to conserve diesel while you’re on the open road. No matter who’s paying for semi truck fuel use, it’s always best to take steps to not only conserve gas, but steps to save the environment as well.

Watch Your Weight

You can most certainly haul more than other vehicles you share the road with, but carrying more than necessary digs into your diesel mileage. Before heading out, be sure to double-check your load to ensure it’s not more than what your truck is designed to carry. You should also take a look inside your cab to see if you have anything inside that might add more weight.

Keep an Eye on Your Speed

Pushing the speed limit might get you to your destination faster, but doing so will empty your tank faster as well. You can slow your speed down to better conserve fuel manually by reducing the pressure on the pedal, or you can put your truck’s ECM to good use to help you out. Another reason to keep your speed at or below the speed limit is so you don’t risk getting a ticket and tarnishing your driving record, which could cost you in more ways than one.

Keep Your Truck Tires Properly Inflated

As you look over your load to ensure it’s not too much, check your tires to see that they’re properly inflated to improve fuel economy. Just like with a regular automobile, you don’t want your truck’s tires to be under or overinflated. That being said, you might need a bit of overinflation during the colder months of the year when frigid air can shrink the air in your tires. On a related note, be sure to act promptly when you notice tires that seem to lose pressure often, as they can negatively impact your ride as well as your fuel economy.

Accelerate Gently

When you’re ready to get going, ease into accelerating rather than smash the pedal down. Rapid acceleration tends to overwork the engine, which eats away at fuel. You want your truck to glide forward rather than lurch forward. There’s also the fact that shotgunning might put drivers around you in danger should you need to react quickly after kicking into warp drive.

Idle Only When You Have To

When you realize you’re going to be parked somewhere a while, it’s better that you turn the engine off rather than let it idle, as doing so wastes diesel. While you most certainly don’t want to shut the engine off when you’re in the middle of a traffic jam, you also don’t want to leave it going when you’re parked at a rest stop or otherwise when you’re likely going to hop out of the truck soon.

Think Beyond the Engine

The performance and condition of your truck’s engine are most certainly essential to semi truck fuel mileage, but don’t forget about the components of the engine. For instance, you’ll want to take a look at the air filters as well as the air intake and exhaust systems. Are there any leaks in the after-cooling piping? There might also be blown turbo or manifold gaskets that could be eating away at your overall efficiency.

Use the Right Fuel and Oil

When it comes to maximizing fuel efficiency, the type of diesel that keeps your truck running makes a huge difference. Know that the seasons will dictate the type of fuel as well as the type of oil you put into your truck. During the winter, you want thicker fuel and 10w30 oil for every season except the most sweltering of summers.

Speaking of having the right fuel for your truck, it’s important you not overfill your tank when it’s time to refuel. The reason this is important is because high temperatures can lead to fuel expanding in the tank, which can lead to it overflowing, which is essentially wasted money and wasted fuel. Something else to think about is the fact that all that extra fuel can also act as extra weight, which you now know is exactly what you don’t want if you’re looking to get as many miles as possible from your truck’s fuel.

Stay in a Higher Gear When Possible

Yet another move to make when it comes to boosting your truck’s overall fuel efficiency is stay in a higher gear whenever possible. When you gradually increase or decrease your speed rather than coming to a complete stop or speeding up faster than absolutely necessary, you don’t have to switch gears as much, which doesn’t burn as much fuel.

Bring out the best in your truck’s fuel economy and extend the life of your vehicle by taking steps to save gas. See how much better trucking can be with the help of the above tips.

How to Hire the Right Truck Drivers

Those who are unfamiliar with the trucking industry may not think much of driver turnover, but with a turnover rate of 74%, large carriers know that the growing problem must be addressed until a solution is found. Basically, this rate of turnover means that only 26% of drivers will remain with the same company after a year’s time.

Figuring that it costs a company anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000 to attract, hire and train each driver, the high turnover means billions of dollars which are lost to companies already besieged by rising fuel costs, service-hours regulations and narrowing profit margins.

How to Attract the Right Drivers From the Start

Knowing how to attract the right kind of drivers from the start is the first, and possibly the most important way that a company can lower the rate of turnover. The following 5 steps may make all the difference in getting drivers that will stay.

  1. Think about who will conduct the interview – A reliable HR department is an integral part of any large trucking operation. However, they may not be fully qualified in hiring truck drivers and conducting new driver interviews as many HR personnel have probably never stepped foot in a commercial truck. In order to gain valuable information during the first interview, you may want to make sure that one of your current trusted drivers is available to sit in. Not only will they be able to listen to what the applicant has to say about his or her experience and credentials, they will also be able to ask questions of the applicant pertaining to the ins and outs of the job.
  2. Leave the office for the 2nd interview – There is truly only one way to know if a driver can “walk the walk,” and this is by conducting the second interview in a truck. This is not to say that the second interview needs to include a full load and unload. Instead, have the driver run through some maneuvers in the yard while you take the passenger seat. This type of interview should show you if the driver can change gears smoothly, back up confidently and hook up a trailer and air lines without problems.
  3. Check the PSP and MVR reports – Those wondering how to hire truck drivers may want to request a Pre-Employment Screening Program (PSP). This can provide employers with safety and performance information that an applicant may be unwilling to provide. The information in this type of report comes from 5 years of DOT reportable crash data and 3 years of roadside inspection data. These reports are provided only to pre-screen employees, not to use with those you already employ. In fact, potential employers must get written permission from the applicant before they can request a PSP report.

Another type of available report is the Motor Vehicle Report (MVR). This will contain personal information about the applicant, such as name, license number and address. It will also identify the type of endorsements, violations, revocations or suspensions a driver has on record. In some states, this type of report also includes information about prior accident information and any driving related convictions.

  1. Silent observation – While stalking is not considered to be a good move on the part of an employer, on-the-job observation is. It may feel uncomfortable to follow along, unannounced, as a newer driver completes local or nearby tasks, but the invaluable information gained makes it worthwhile. This is truly the best way to see if a new employee is following company policy and truly has the skill to continue working for your company.
  2. Check in periodically – Drivers who are hired and forgotten about are much more likely to take a better offer down the line. Instead of having drivers feel that they are only a number, make plans to check in with them periodically. This can either be a 90 day recurring review where they can tell you how the job is going and discuss desired changes, or can be more random. Such interviews do not need to be lengthy as 10 -15 minutes of conversation can really make the driver feel like they are part of the team.

Driver Shortage Means Competition

Take the cost of driver turnover and add it to the fact that there is a huge driver shortage in the industry. These two facts mean that companies must work at first, hiring excellent drivers and second, making them feel like a valued member of the team. Many companies now offer competitive pay structures that include fair pay for time spent waiting and loading, more frequent at-home time and programs to help keep drivers healthy. When these types of incentives are provided to carefully chosen employees, turnover rates can plummet helping to increase your company’s bottom line.