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.

5 Steps to Becoming an Owner Operator in the Trucking Industry

Many commercial drivers dream of the day they become an owner operator instead of simply making money for someone else. If becoming an owner operator is a goal of yours, then you probably also anticipate being able to make your own schedule as well.

The journey toward actually reaching this goal may seem too complicated for many to achieve but with a little bit of focus and hard work, the benefits of being an owner operator could be yours sooner than you would think. The process is easiest for drivers who have already had a few years of experience behind the wheel. While driving truck for someone else, you are gaining a more complete understanding about each part of the trucking industry, and this understanding is what is sure to help you succeed in your goal.

One Step at a Time

Though the process may seem daunting, drivers who are willing to take one step at a time and realize that each step is imperative to the end goal become owner operators sooner than most would have thought possible. Following are five steps that can lead you to your goal of ownership.

  1. Important Numbers – The first step you need to take is to get a registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and get a USDOT number. This number will be used to identify and collect information about your safety information. This information includes any compliance reviews, inspections, data collected in audits and crash investigations. Once you have a USDOT number, You will need to request an Interstate Operating Authority (MC number). The kind of operating authority you need will depend on the type of cargo your plan to haul. There is a one-time fee to get a MC number from the FMCSA.
  2. Understanding Authority – By registering through the Unified Registration System (URS), you will be able to get our trucking authority in 20-25 business days. You will need to have your insurance company provide proof to the FMCSA that you have liability coverage.
  3. Insurance – You may think, while looking at insurance for your truck, that it is just in case of vehicle accidents. Understanding owner operator insurance requirements is something that you need to fully understand before moving forward in the process. Truck insurance is very different than simple auto insurance as it protects not only the owner, but also covers any loss of load or other assets. Certain kinds of insurance coverage are required by the FMCSA depending on what you plan to haul. Some types of freight, such as hazmat loads will require very different insurance than standard loads. The average insurance cost for an owner operator with one truck varies from an average of $8,000 – $12,000 per year.
  4. Lease or Own – One of the most difficult decisions, when considering becoming an owner operator. One of the biggest reasons that you might want to consider leasing a truck is that commercial trucks cost a lot! A decent used truck can cost anywhere from $60,000 to $100,000. Some leasing companies, however, do provide the option of leasing to own. This means that each lease payment gets you a step closer to ownership without having to pay the whole cost up front. If you decide that this is the right option, you may be required to haul for the leasing company, as well as find your own loads.
  5. Understanding Load Boards – Finding loads is one part of owning that many drivers do not get much experience with until they become owner operators. Thankfully, technology has made this process much easier than in the days when owners had to make phone calls looking for loads. The internet has many websites called load boards which are dedicated to helping owner operators find loads. Some of these boards are free, while others require a monthly membership fee for brokers and carriers. Even more convenient is the fact that many of these job boards have easy-to-use apps that can make grabbing the next load on your smartphone or tablet a breeze.

What You Need to Know About Truck Liability Insurance

Crunch the Numbers and Take the Leap

Taking a look at each step in this process before actually making the step can help you understand the costs of setting up as an owner operator. Make sure you factor in other costs that you will be faced with as the truck owner, so you will have a realistic view of how much money you can actually make. These costs, known as average operating costs are often calculated and called the cost per mile. You should include anticipated costs for fuel, vehicle repairs and necessary services, fees, taxes and a savings account that will help with any unexpected occurrences.

Though the process could take you several months, you will realize who worthwhile the work has been once you begin seeing the earning potential that is available to truck owners. Stop dreaming about being your own boss and take the leap as you change your life, your family life and your career for the better.

New Data from ATRI on the Operational Costs of Trucking

In a recent analysis by The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), motor carriers’ operational costs of trucking were quantified and documented, providing critical data so they could work to provide correct information to policymakers about how new funding strategies could negatively impact the freight movement. Because this study has been completed for 9 years now, the metrics continue to become more precise, resulting in an invaluable look at how the costs of the trucking industry have changed over time.

Marginal Cost of Operation Influencers

Many types of data were collected in 2016 in order to calculate the marginal cost of operation. These included:

  • Fuel – Fuel costs have represented between 30-40 percent of overall cost per mile during each year the study has taken place. However, prices declined steadily in 2015 and 2016 making the percentage lower for the second year in a row.
  • Equipment – Overall operating costs can be affected by age and type of equipment as well as the turnover rate. In this year’s study, owners of both truck tractors and straight trucks reported longer use before replacement. This trend explains the increased maintenance and repair costs that are predicted to increase.
  • Driver Pay – For the 4th year in a row, driver benefits and pay are both reported to have grown. This is most likely due to a shortage of qualified drivers. According to the American Trucking Association, the currently estimated shortage of 50,000 drivers is predicted to grow to an alarming increase of 175,000 drivers in 2025. In addition to the current and predicted driver shortages, another demographic is predicted to negatively affect the industry as well. This is the fact that over 50% of the qualified workforce is over the age of 45 while less than 5% are between the ages of 20-24. Shortages such as this will continue to push driver wages and benefits higher, further impacting the overall cost of ownership.

A Closer Look at Line Item Costs

Looking at costs with an eye to the long-view helps to give historical perspective to compiled data. For instance, the knowledge that diesel prices were the highest in 2008, topping the pumps near $4.80 per gallon and stabilizing between $3.75 and $4.15 per gallon between 2011 and 2014 gives an understanding of just how relatively low diesel prices dipped in February of 2016 when they reached $1.98 per gallon.

Another cost that the study looked at historically was that of leasing or purchasing equipment. A reported increase in such payments in 2016 brought the current average to 25.5 cents per mile. This increase certainly factors into the higher Cost Per Mile.

Repair and maintenance (R&M Costs) were determined with several factors in mind. These included the age of trucks and trailers, vehicle configurations and technologies used. The average costs in this survey grew by 1 cent, making this the highest recorded year since the data was first collected 9 years ago. This is mainly be attributed to a shortage of diesel technicians.

Commercial truck insurance premiums also rose one percent this year, bringing the total to 7.5 cents per mile. Specialized carriers reported a much higher increase of 9.0 cents per mile. Compiled data verified that carriers with less than 100 power units experienced the highest rise in insurance premiums while the largest fleet operators reported a much smaller increase.

Other line-item expenses that were factored into this year’s study included permits and special licenses, tires and tolls.

Making Sense of the Data

Making sense of all of the data means making calculations that result in understandable bits of information. One such calculation resulted in an average Cost Per Mile (CPM) in 2016. This year’s average was $1.592, up just one percent from last year. Seemingly, the increase in driver wages and benefits was offset by the decrease in fuel prices bringing the averages relatively close together.

In addition, data was compiled to attain the average cost per mile by region. These findings showed the least expensive region to be the Midwest ($1.540) while the most expensive was the Northeast ($1.655).

By documenting and compiling this data, the ATRI has, once again, provided invaluable information which can be used for benchmarking. Such information is frequently used by carriers working to see if costs are in line with a nationwide average.