Tax Deductions for Owner Operator Truck Drivers

Tax deductions for owner operators reduce the amount of self-employment tax and income tax associated with the income reported to the IRS. Self-employed or statutory employees generally file tax deductible business expenses on Schedule C with reported income. Drivers should keep good records and receipts to substantiate any deductions taken.

What Type of Expense Can Be Deducted?

Expenses related to your business are typically tax deductible if you are self-employed. Here is a list of some of the items you might be able to deduct:

  • Vehicle expenses, such as tolls, parking, maintenance, fuel, registration fees, tires and insurance
  • Trade association dues or subscriptions to trade magazines
  • Flat-rate taxes
  • Travel expenses, if incurred while being away from your tax base
  • Licenses and regulatory fees
  • Specialized work gear, such as goggles, boots or protective gloves
  • Electronic devices, if only used for work
  • Sleeper berth equipment, such as an alarm clock, bedding, curtains, cooking equipment and first aid supplies
  • Work related fees for drug testing, DOT physical and a sleep apnea test (If required for work)
  • Fees paid to a dispatch service
  • Leasing costs

Don’t forget the standard deductions available to anyone, such as child and dependent care, lifetime leaning credits and the child tax credit.

Know Your Tax Home

To claim travel expenses, you must be traveling away from home. Typically, local drivers aren’t going to be able to deduct travel expenses, but it depends on a few factors. You should determine your tax home to calculate whether you’re traveling away from it or not.

Your tax home is the city or general area where you work, according to the IRS. For self-employed drivers, this is generally the base or dispatch center where you get assignments, not where you live.

The tax home includes the entire city or general area where the work is located, not just a zip code or neighborhood. A tax home is also the main place of business. If the nature of your business means that you don’t have a regular place of business, your tax home may be where you live.

For most drivers, the tax home is typically where a trip is begun and ended. If you are using a residence as your tax home, make sure that you can show you help maintain the property while you’re away from home. If you don’t maintain a home, you are considered a transient, which means you have no tax home.

To reiterate, you must substantiate your expenses. Keep your receipts and log book to validate the purposes of each travel expense. Back up your log books to ensure you have the information at your fingertips if you need it. Documentation requires time, date and place for each travel day.

Per Diem Expenses

While you can track each expense while you’re on the road, you may also use a per diem, which eliminates the need to prove the actual costs of your expenses when you’re away from home. However, you do need to prove you are working away from your tax base. The most current rates are listed in the IRS Publication 1542, Per Diem Rates. To claim the per diem rate, drivers must:

  • Itemize their tax deductions.
  • Have a tax home.
  • Be subject to HOS regulations.
  • Meet the overnight rule. Essentially, this means that a driver cannot complete a trip within a single day.
  • Maintain documents that they were away from home for every day a per diem is claimed.

Per diem covers meal expenses and incidentals, such as tips and fees. You should still keep receipts for hotels, showers, laundry and other costs. These expenses are deductible.

Maintaining Good Records

Self-employed truck driver tax deductions are a great way to help reduce your tax bill, but you do need to substantiate these expenses. Here are some suggestions to help you stay organized through the year:

  • Keep a file to sort receipts by month or by trip. Don’t just put all your receipts into a folder and expect to sort them out in January. Spend a few minutes each week organizing your information to be ready at tax season.
  • Store log books in the Cloud and on a hard drive. Dropbox and Google Drive are just two secure places to store your information.
  • Use an app to maintain receipts and trip information or make notes on each receipt to help you stay organized in case your filing system becomes messy.

Tax Rules Fluctuate From Year to Year

Be sure to check the rules at the start of the tax year to know the requirements and deductions you can take. This can help you get organized and not miss out on any tax breaks. For more owner operator tax tips, ask your tax professional to review your accounts.

Simple Ways Your Trucking Company Can Be More Eco-Friendly

During the course of operating your trucking company, you might have wondered if there are steps you can take to be more environmentally friendly, no matter how minor those steps might be. You’ll be pleased to know that there are actions that support eco-friendly trucking companies. Find out how you can do your part to preserve Mother Earth without going to great lengths, or great expense.

Careful Route Planning

Simply taking out time to plan your route and have any other drivers you have plan their routes go a long way in saving resources as well as money. Traffic jams, construction and poor weather conditions can all increase your traveling time and the emissions churning out into the environment.

Slow Down

Pay close attention to the posted speed limit. Slowing down just five miles makes a big difference in the emissions your trucks are putting out. Going back to the tip touched on above, by meticulously planning out your route, there’s less chance of you needing to rush to make it to your destination on time. Additionally, get into the habit of looking both far and near while driving so you can slowly start slowing down when you see a field of brake lights coming up.

Recognize Opportunities to Turn Your Truck Off

When the opportunity presents itself, turn your truck off rather than leaving it on and burning gas (as well as money). Whenever you’re at a truck stop, take advantage of electrification systems or auxiliary units so you can keep the temperature in your truck comfortable without using your own diesel (and money).

Take Good Care of Your Truck

Properly maintaining your truck and its equipment are essential to allowing it to operate at peak efficiency, saving money and doing your part to preserve the environment. Just like you would with a regular automobile, you want to keep up with fluid levels, proper tire pressure and adhere to a routine maintenance schedule as recommended by the truck manufacturer. Taking proper care of your truck is not only great for the environment, but goes a long way in avoiding breakdowns and similar issues later on down the road, which saves money, time and frustration.

No matter how great of a job you do when it comes to taking exemplary care of your truck, it’s not going to last forever. If your current truck is older than seven years, not only is it likely to have poor emissions control, it might be time to think about retiring that truck.

Upgrade Your Equipment

With the money you save on maintenance and diesel, you can look into adding aerodynamic panels to your truck. What they do is help boost your overall fuel efficiency, and you’re sure to love how they make your truck look. There are also exhaust control devices, engine upgrade kits and engine repowers, some of which make for great options for older truck models.

Don’t Forget the Office

You can take your eco-friendly practices outside your truck and inside your base of operations. Specifically, consider starting a recycling program with designated bins. Taking steps to ensure lights are turned off in rooms that aren’t in use and doing the same with computers and equipment saves money as well as electricity. Having meetings devoted to enacting new eco-friendly practices with your drivers and staff helps ensure everyone is aware of what they can do to go green.

Intelligent Logistics

While planning routes and deliveries, bear in mind where different loads are going. If two or more are headed for the same endpoint, do yourself (and the Earth) a favor and think about combining them. Doing so saves time while maximizing efficiency.

Stay Informed of Current Regulations

The Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have taken steps to create regulations specific to the trucking industry in response to global warming. It’s best that you know what’s going on with both regulatory bodies so you know what to expect down the line and to better ensure you don’t fall behind on the latest requirements. Keeping your finger on the pulse of the latest requirements and developments gives you plenty of time to make all necessary changes, which is better than scurrying and playing catch-up before a deadline that’s right around the corner.

Look Into Alternative Fuels

There are alternative fuels you might want to consider if you’re concerned about the impact diesel has on the environment. Specifically, you can choose between propane, electricity, CNG and hydrogen. Do your research to see which you feel is a good fit for you, your company and your budget. Additionally, there might be special credits or write-offs you can take advantage of by switching to an alternative fuel, which can offset any investment you have to make to change fuel types.

Having a more eco-friendly trucking company doesn’t have to take a lot of time or money. Put these suggestions into action and see how they work for you and Mother Nature.

 

What to Discuss During a Trucking Safety Meeting

Letting your drivers know that safety is key to success is imperative when running a large or small fleet. One of the most common ways to do this is to hold regular safety meetings where instruction, safety talks, innovative ideas, discussion and policies may all be reviewed

Professional drivers are, in actuality, some of the safest on the roads when compared mile for mile to drivers of automobiles. Not only do they know how to evaluate traffic, control their speed and yield repeatedly, they know that their safety, and that of other drivers on the road may depend on how well they can do their job. Introducing safety videos and holding regular driver safety meetings can reinforce policy, provide new and innovative ideas and remind drivers of required industry standards.

Fleet Policy

Without a stated fleet policy, it is impossible to have a continued company commitment to that policy. A fleet policy should be more than just a set of rules. Instead, it should be written to encourage drivers to engage in a safer driving culture.  Some items in many fleet policies include:

  • Company commitment to safe driver training
  • Driver seat belt policy
  • Definition of driver personal use allowance
  • Expectations for MVR reviews
  • Committee set up to review accidents

Having such safety policies such as these in place is only a small part of making it part of your fleet culture. To do this, management must communicate frequently and positively about each facet of the policy being sure to follow the policy when drivers face both negative and positive consequences.

Ongoing Communication

Driving a semi can be a long and lonely job. Communicating with your drivers can help them feel as if they are truly part of your team. These communications can include tips on getting enough sleep or drinking enough water, a truck related joke of the day, a shout-out to drivers who have exceeded expectations and reminders about safety.  Attaching a safety-related email signature can also ensure that the drivers get the safety message without feeling overwhelmed by it.

Conference calls are another way to communicate with over the road drivers about safety items. Though drivers are not legally allowed to manipulate a cell phone while operating a vehicle, a good Bluetooth headset can make such conference calls easy to attend while on the road.

Many drivers thrive on competition, so company-wide contests that recognize a driver’s commitment to safety are a great idea. The fact that they might increase a driver’s awareness of safety is even better.

Safe Trucks

Let your truck drivers know that the vehicles they are driving are safe. For instance, letting each driver in the fleet know about the tire review and replacement policy may help to put their minds at ease. Nothing is worse for a professional driver as having to wonder when a tire will blow on the freeway, and how far the pieces will fly. By letting your drivers know that you understand their safety concerns about tire wear and tear, you will help your drivers feel safer.

Along with tires, each vehicle in the fleet should undergo routine maintenance, and each driver should be familiar with the schedule. By updating your drivers on this type of maintenance, they will know that they need not worry about the next safety inspection or oil change because you have their vehicle covered.

Insistence on Safe Habits

A fleet policy should always include a discussion about the importance of safe trucking habits. Not only do these fleet safety talks show that managers value the truck and the load, but also the safety of each and every driver. One habit that many drivers forgo is wearing a seatbelt. Managers can use many different reminders, safe driving videos, incentives and tabulations to help drivers remember the real importance of seatbelts in a truck and in a personal vehicle. Managers may also want to remind drivers that seatbelts help everyone on the road, not just the truck driver.

Recognize Safety

Making sure to recognize safe drivers and reward their efforts publicly can help to increase the overall safety of the fleet. Such rewards might include having no traffic violations, no accidents or now insurance claims. Ongoing records of safety such as many years with no accidents or violations should be recognized and rewarded with larger rewards such as paid time off or short paid vacations.

Having a stated safety policy is the most important item on the list for encouraging safety. Making time for regular truck safety meetings runs a close second. Let your drivers know that it is worth the time to learn about how all can be safer as they cross the byways and highways of the United States.

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.