Auto-Issued DOT Numbers- What We’ve Seen and What You Can Do

We’ve been seeing something a little strange lately here at Western Truck Insurance Services and we wanted to keep all of our loyal clients informed. We haven’t seen much information about this online, but it is something that several clients have experienced. If you’re having problems with this, or with anything else relating to your insurance, give us a call and we’ll happily help you sort things out.

Last year all clients with a California MCP # only were automatically issued a DOT #. We believe that the California DMV forwarded the information to the FMCSA for the applications. The problem is, much of this information was outdated. We had clients receiving their DOT # with an incorrect address, old registration information, etc. These clients never asked for or applied for this number. It was automatically issued to them. The California DMV is trying to transition to using DOT #s and provided this information to the FMCSA from their last update, but if things changed during the year, the information was outdated.

What Can Be Done?

If this happened to you, or happens to you in the future, what can you do? If you have insurance through Western Truck Insurance Services, get in touch with us and we’ll help you sort things out. This is what we’re suggesting:

  • Go online and check your information. This would typically be at the FMCSA website (https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/registration). You can also call them at 800-832-5660.
  • Order your PIN for future updates. This allows you to update online in the future.
  • Print the MCS 150 page.
  • Call your insurance agent and discuss how to fill everything out properly. This is very important. Make sure things are filled out correctly to avoid future problems down the road. Please call us first!
  • Fax/mail in the documentation and keep a copy for yourself.
  • This is the first time we’ve seen something like this happen, but as the transition goes through, we’ll be here to help you with this and all of your other insurance needs. Get in touch anytime you have a question. We’re here to help you ‘Travel with Care’.

Trucking Trends- Where Are We Now?

The American Trucking Association recently released ATA American Trucking Trends 2016, a comprehensive analysis of the state of the trucking industry. Overall, it was a strong year for trucking and we hope it was a great one for you too.

What’s the Current State of Trucking?

Looking at where the industry is now can help you decide the best paths as you guide your business into the future. Here are a few statistics pulled from the report. What did 2015 look like for you? More information is available from the ATA.

  • Trucking Still Dominates Freight– Trucks carried more freight than any other method, approximately 70% of domestic freight tonnage.
  • Trucking Gross Revenues– Trucking collected more than $726 billion in gross freight revenues during 2015. This was a record setting year for freight revenues.
  • More Money Spent on Trucking– In 2015 trucks received 81.5% of the nation’s freight revenues.
  • Number of Trucks in Operation– More than 3.6 million Class 8 trucks were in operation in the U.S. during 2015.

Where Is the Trucking Industry Headed?

There are certainly challenges in the trucking industry, including increased regulation, fluctuating fuel costs, and driver shortages. As a driver it can be hard to know what the future holds. In addition to the annual Trucking Trends report, the ATA recently released an industry forecast, looking at the future of freight. Let’s take a look at a few highlights.

  • Expected Tonnage Growth of 35%– Between 2016 and 2027 overall freight tonnage is expected to grow 35%. The amount of freight moved by trucks will grow about 27%.
  • Pipeline Use Expected to Grow– The use of pipeline to move freight is expected to increase from about 10% to 17%. This will result in loss of market share by other methods of moving freight including trucking, water, and rail.
  • Truckload Volumes to Increase– Truckload volumes are expected to increase about 2% each year until 2022 and 1.6% annually from 2022-2027.

What Do These Numbers Mean for Me?

Only time knows exactly what’s in store for the trucking industry, but these two reports from the American Trucking Association are positive news for the industry. Right now trucking is still the predominant method for moving freight and revenue and truckload volumes are on the rise. Strong growth is expected to continue over the next several years.

As the industry changes, your insurance needs may too. We are here and ready to help you adjust your policies and find the right coverage for your situation. As your needs change, get in touch and we’ll help you keep your policies up to date.

A Successful Trip Starts with a Pre-Trip Inspection

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

How Long Should My Pre-Trip Inspection Take?

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

When Do I Need to Perform Pre-Trip Inspections?

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

What Do I Need to Inspect?

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

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

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

Will Anyone Know if I Skimp on Inspections?

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

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

Our Favorite Apps for Truckers

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

Find a Truck Stop

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

Find a Rest Stop

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

Stay in Touch

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

Log Your Hours

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

Keep Up On Inspections

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

Truck Insure On-the-Go

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

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

 

ID Theft and Truck Drivers- Are You at Risk?

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

ID Theft Risk Factors for Truck Drivers

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

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

Other Ways to Protect Yourself from ID Theft

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

 

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

 

How do you keep your identity safe on the road?

Teens and Big Trucks: Should They Be Allowed to Drive?

Should teens be able to drive big trucks? Right now you can’t drive a rental car until 25, but you can start driving 80,000 pound trucks at 21 interstate and intrastate(in most states) at 18. If a new law passes, younger drivers may soon be able to drive heavy trucks across state borders. Proposed regulation wants to change the age limit for interstate trucking to 18, with some provisional conditions. What do you think? Will this new regulation help get more drivers on the road or is the safety risk much too great?

The Risks of Younger Drivers

Younger drivers are notorious for getting into accidents. Drivers aged 16-19 have the highest annual crash rate and that’s just behind the wheel of a car, not a heavy truck. In states where 18 year olds are allowed to drive 80,000 pound trucks, younger drivers are 4-6 times more likely then 21+ drivers to get in an accident. Safety experts worry this plan could lead to disaster on the road.

While younger drivers are more likely to get in an accident, they are already on road and driving big trucks. In most states current regulation only keeps them from crossing borders, not from driving. Proponents of the law argue that the regulation changes make sense. Right now teens can drive hundreds of miles around a state, but can’t drive 10 miles across a border.

The Benefits of Younger Drivers

There is a need for more drivers and allowing younger drivers to drive interstate could lower recruiting costs and increase the number of applicants available. With transportation costs on the rise, some hope that younger drivers could help slow the rising prices in transportation (contract costs increased 3-5% this year). The law would potentially give fresh out high school graduates more job opportunities.

The Proposed Regulation

The proposed regulation would allow the FMCSA to create a 6 year pilot program allowing younger drivers to cross state lines. The regulation would allow states to enter into agreements with each other allowing the younger drivers. States would be free to place limits on these drivers (like limiting types of cargo, limiting routes, creating hours they can drive, etc.).

The regulation has passed the Senate, but still needs approval from the House of Representatives.

What do you think about this proposed regulation? Should we allow more teen drivers on the road?

 

Hours-of-Service and Safety- Are the New Rules Working?

Those HOS (hours-of-service) rules can certainly get in the way, but the good news is, they seem to be working. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released a report examining the most recent round of HOS changes (implemented in 2013) and the FMCSA responded to the report and agreed to move forward with the changes.

Positive Impact of HOS Changes

The GAO examined data from the first 18 months of the new HOS regulations. Here’s what they found:

  • Reduction in Drivers Working 65+ Weekly Hours– Drivers in the sample were 24-29% less likely to work more than 65 hours per 8 day week. The number of drivers working over 65 hours was 12% before the rule and decreased to 6% afterwards.
  • Fewer Hours Worked Per Week– The GAO found that the drivers in their study worked about 1.1 to 2.5 fewer hours each 8 day week after the new HOS rule was implemented. This ranges from 2-4.8% fewer hours.
  • Fewer Restarts- Drivers in the sample took fewer restarts per 8 day week (approximately 6.1-6.5% fewer).
  • Less Fatigue– Drivers that comply with the HOS requirements should experience a lower peak fatigue level, especially in the earlier days in their work cycle.
  • No Increase in Early Morning Crashes– They also found no increase in crashes during the 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. window, a worry that many critics of the regulation originally had.

There was little change in the number of crashes reported (and a possible decrease in the number of fatalities).

Other Ways to Stay Safe on the Road

Hours of Service rules are the law and they may help you to be safer on the road, but they aren’t the only way to increase your safety on the road. Here are a few other simple changes you can make based on recommendations and statistics from the GAO report.

Drive During the Day- The study found that drivers driving a nighttime schedule were on average much more fatigued than drivers working during daylight hours. To reduce fatigue, drive during the day if you can. If you must drive at night, here’s a great presentation from the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) about drowsy driving.

Be Aware of Danger Times- The report found that crashes were more likely to occur when the roads were icy rather than dry, foggy rather than clear, and during dawn rather than daylight hours. Although you should be vigilant at all times, difficult road conditions do increase your risk of an accident. Be extra careful if you must drive during these times.

Don’t Speed– The most commonly cited reason for driver-caused crashes in 2012 was speeding. If you’re guilty of driving too fast, slow down.

It looks like the new HOS rules are here to stay. Have you noticed any changes (positive or negative) due to the changes in the HOS rules?

The Latest Stats in Trucking

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

Trucks Carry a Big Majority of Our Nation’s Freight

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

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

Seat Belt Use on the Rise

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

Roadside Inspections… Everything You Need to Know

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

Fatal Crashes Statistics from 1975 to Now

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

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

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

CARB Compliance Issues- A Deeper Look at Low Rolling Resistance Tires

If you drive a box type trailer in California (including dry van and refrigerated van trailers) you likely are aware of the low rolling resistance tire regulations that are currently being phased in. What you might not know however is how these tires work and how using them impacts you. Keep reading for all the details, including tips for maximizing your tire investment.

What Are Low Rolling Resistance Tires?

Low rolling resistance (LRR) tires are a special type of tire designed to improve fuel efficiency by reducing the rolling resistance. They are required for certain trailers and tractors as part of California’s Heavy Duty Vehicle Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Regulation. As tires move on the road, this resistance turns energy exerted by a vehicle into heat, not forward movement, and can result in a great deal of energy waste. For heavy trucks it is estimated that up to 15-30% of fuel consumption is used to overcoming rolling resistance. LRR tires cut down on this resistance saving money in fuel costs and cutting down on greenhouse gasses.

While required for some tractors and trailers in California, LRR tires can be used anywhere in the country to cut down on fuel expenses.

How Much of an Impact Do LRR Tires Make?

LRR tires can make a big impact on your fuel efficiency. Some studies indicate that making the change to LRR tires could save (each year):

  • 500 Gallons in Fuel
  • 08 metric tons of CO2
  • $1,900 in Fuel Costs
  • 3% Reduction in Fuel Costs

LRR tires may wear out more quickly than standard tires. The full impact you’ll experience will vary depending on the type of tire you choose, whether you have single wide or double tires, and even how your tires are inflated. LRR tires may be more expensive (between $0 and $50 per tire), but most estimates suggest that the increase in fuel efficiency will offset the increase in tire price.

Other Methods for Improving Your Fuel Efficiency

Do you want to get the most bang for your fuel investment? LRR tires can cut down on your fuel bill, but there are other steps you can take to maximize your tire investment and to increase your fuel efficiency when using LRR tires. Here are a few tips:

  • Inflate Properly- Making sure your tires are properly inflated can make a big difference in your fuel efficiency. For example if your recommended inflation is 35 psi, but your actual inflation is only 28 psi, your rolling resistance will be increased by 12.5%.
  • Use LRR Tires for All Tires- Although incremental fuel efficiency increases can be obtained by using LRR tires on just the tractor or trailer, you’ll see the best results when you use LRR tires for all tire positions.
  • Choose SmartWay Approved Tires- SmartWay approved tires are verified by the EPA to meet specific fuel efficiency requirements. See a list of approved LRR tires here.

Are you using LRR tires? Have you noticed an impact on your fuel bill?

 

Do You Have an Accident Prevention Plan?

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

Accident Prevention Plan- A Legal Obligation?

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

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

Starting an Accident Prevention Plan- First Steps

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

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

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

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

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

Resources to Get You Started

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

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

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

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

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