A Trucker’s Guide to Holiday Gifting… and Receiving

What’s on the top of your holiday wish list this year? If you’ve been too busy on the road to think about gifts, we’ve got you covered. This holiday gift guide will help you find the perfect gifts for everyone on your list. Here are some of our favorite holiday gifts for truck drivers to give and receive.

To Give- Thoughtful and Easy Gifts for Everyone on Your List

You’re on the road more than you’re home; who has time for holiday shopping? These thoughtful gifts won’t break the bank, but will bring a little cheer to those that support you while you’re far away.

  • Regional Favorites– You travel the country often, giving you a unique opportunity to gather fun, regional treats. If you’re in the South, pick up some boiled peanuts. In Idaho, grab a bag of their famous potatoes, or the slightly sweeter treat the Idaho Spud. If you’re in New Jersey, choose a nice bag of salt water taffy. In New York City, opt for bagels. And don’t forget about Vermont’s famous maple syrup and maple candies. Regional favorites are favorites for a reason. They are a delicious taste of somewhere else.
  • Photos– They say a picture’s worth a thousand words, but they also make for a great holiday gift. Put together a calendar of pictures you’ve nabbed on your travels. Frame a photo of yourself to remind loved ones you miss them while you’re away. Take a photo of street signs, town signs, etc. that remind you of your loved ones.
  • Craft Beverages– For your favorite alcohol enthusiast, consider craft beers, wines, or spirits. Make sure you’re careful getting these treats home. You don’t want to violate any company or state laws by transporting alcohol inappropriately.

 

Truck drivers aren’t home very often and are notoriously difficult to shop for. Here are some ideas to spoil the truckers in your life, on and off the road.

 

To Receive- Perfect Holiday Gifts for Your Favorite Driver

  • Gift Cards– Drive-thrus and truck stop food are common trucker fare, but I’m sure any driver you know would love a hot meal every once in awhile. Gift cards to chain restaurants make an excellent gift. Remember, popular chains vary across the country. Make sure the restaurants you’re considering have locations in areas where your trucker drives.
  • Hotel Nights– Night after night in a sleeper can get kind of old. Gift a night at a hotel. Hotel points, free night certificates, and gift cards to a favorite chain can provide welcome relief on the road.
  • Electric Blanket– Nights on the road are often chilly, especially during the winter. All too often the APU (auxillary power unit) can’t keep up with the dropping temperatures. An electric blanket will keep your driver toasty and warm, even on the coldest winter night.
  • Snacks– Give the gift of healthy, delicious snacks. Dried fruits, bags of popped popcorn, nuts, pretzels, applesauce pouches, and bottled water are some healthy, tasty options. Pack some favorites into a gift basket this year.
  • Work Gloves– A new pair of work gloves is always a treat, especially for those drivers that commonly use them. If your trucker drives a flatbed, step deck, RGN, or other exposed trailer, work gloves will be well used and very appreciated. Opt for warm, winter ones that can be used right away.

Tis the season to give and receive. What items are you giving or hoping to receive this holiday season?

Lonely No More: How to Foster Healthy Relationships on the Road

Are you away from home more than you are there? Many long haul drivers spend weeks on the road and then come home for only a couple of days before doing it all again. This can take a toll on your relationships, especially those with your immediate family. Lose the lonely with these helpful tips for building and maintaining healthy relationships as a trucker. This post wraps up our healthy drivers series; are you seeing positive change in your lifestyle?

Make a Plan

Which relationships are most important to you? Make a list of the relationships that you want to focus on while you’re away, listing them in order of priority. Come up with a plan for maintaining contact and interacting with each of these important people. When you have a plan in place, it is easier to make the relationship actually happen. Define your priorities and then stick to them. One of the worst things you can do for a relationship is nothing. Pick up the phone. Send that text. Write an email. Do it now, not tomorrow.

Use Technology

You may be gone a lot, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be present, especially during those important moments. Technology can connect you to your family, allowing you to see that dance recital, to celebrate that promotion, and to read those bedtime stories to your children at night. Get a smartphone or other connected device and use it to connect with those that you don’t see as often when you’re on the road. Skype, HangOuts, and Facetime are three easy options for video chatting. Family and friends can also send you videos over social media and email when you’re not available real-time.

Share the Journey

As a trucker you see more of the country in a week than most people do in a lifetime. Share your journey and help people to experience the magic and beauty that is trucking. Although there may be a lot of boring on any given day (tarping, long waits at the marshalling yard, and missed crane appointments to name a few), there’s also plenty of excitement waiting to share (beautiful sunsets, that authentic Memphis BBQ, and the supersize tank you’re hauling). Update friends and family of your adventures and share a whole new world with them: yours. Social media makes it easy to keep everyone up to date.

With your immediate family, keep the lines of communication open. You might be far away, but you can still share in the day to day by talking about your lives. Find out what is going on at home and share about your adventures in the truck. It might not seem exciting to you, but to those that love you, the everyday can be fascinating. Share your journey and delight in the adventures of those you love.

Make it Home When it Matters

Getting home for a specific date can be difficult, but make it a priority, especially for those most important events. Your spouse may say that they are happy to spend their anniversary alone, but odds are, they really do want you there. Look ahead at the calendar and choose the key events to schedule your home time around. Let your family know that you’re willing to make their lives your priority by coming home when you need to.

Getting a long haul driver home can be difficult, but it is much easier on your dispatcher when they have plenty of notice. Ask for specific days off as far in advance as possible. You’ll be more likely to make it home if your dispatcher has plenty of time to route you that way. You know the date of your anniversary a year in advance; don’t ask to rush home a few days before.

Long hours on the road can take their toll on your relationships, but with a little extra TLC, you can keep those relationships at their best. Traveling with care means taking care of yourself, your family, and your friends, not just your freight. We’ll handle your insurance so you can focus on your relationships.

 

 

Stop Smoking and Drive Healthier: 5 Resources for Quitting on the Road

Odds are, you’re a smoker. Most truckers are, just about 51%. As you well know, smoking is terrible for your health and quitting is hard. Make a healthier choice for yourself and quit smoking. These resources can help.

There is no one guaranteed solution for quitting smoking. Find resources that look like they will help you and try them. If it isn’t working, try something else. Stick to your goal and don’t give up. Quitting is possible and you can do it. Make the decision to quit today and then find a plan to make it happen.

1-800-QUIT-NOW

All states have a dedicated quitline to help smokers as they decide to quit. Services available and hours will vary by state. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW to get in touch with your state’s quitline. Another available option is 877-44U-QUIT, available Mon-Fri from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern time.

Freedom from Smoking Online

Support groups are an excellent resource as you quit an addictive habit, but many drivers, especially long haul and over the road truckers, may have a hard time hitting a weekly meeting due to their varied schedule and time on the road. Freedom from Smoking Online is an adaptation of the American Lung Association’s highly successful group program. It can be done on your own time, from anywhere with an internet connection. There is a small fee to register for the program, but with all the money you’ll save when you no longer buy cigarettes, this program is very affordable and is an excellent option for those wanting a group style program without the weekly, in-person meetings.

Smokefree TXT

Are you running low on data? Do you want support without having to use the internet? Smokefree TXT provides 24/7 support and encouragement for those that are trying to quit. Each day you’ll receive approximately five encouraging text messages, helping you to stay on track. To sign up visit https://smokefree.gov/tools-tips/smokefreetxt

Quit Day

QuitDay.org hopes to add 10 healthy years to your life by helping you to ditch the cigarettes. Their website will help you understand why you smoke and will help you identify common setbacks met during the quitting process. They have a page specially dedicated to helping truck drivers quit smoking.

Apps for Quitting

Are you an app lover? Use one of these free apps to help you quit (links are to Android apps, but Apple versions are available too):

Tips for Success

Quitting smoking can be especially difficult for truck drivers. You spend hours alone driving, time that you probably filled with cigarettes. These tips may be helpful.

  • Try Sunflower Seeds and Gum– Many truckers find it helpful to stock up on sunflower seeds and gum for those long, boring stretches where you’re used to smoking. Make sure you have something to do as you drive so you can break the smoking habit with a healthier option.
  • Talk with Your Doctor– Your doctor may be able to prescribe treatments to reduce your urge to smoke. Ask them about your options.
  • Get a Buddy– Everything is more fun when you do it with a friend. A quit buddy may make it easier to stop smoking. This resource guide from the University of Alabama will help you enlist a family member, friend, or fellow trucker for help on your quitting journey.
  • Do it for You– Quitting is hard and the only way to be successful is to want it. Why do you want to quit? Remind yourself of the reasons that you’re quitting every time the going gets hard.

Live longer and feel better. You might drive a truck, but that doesn’t mean you have to smoke like a trucker. Quit smoking today!

Saving Money on the Road- 3 Tips for Truckers

Do you have a money problem? Many truck drivers struggle with their finances, relying on payday advances and loans to pay the bills. If you’re sick of living paycheck to paycheck or want to finally build up some emergency savings, this guide will give you some actionable tips for saving money on the road.

If you’re already in the hole with too much credit card debt or in the habit of payday loans, making financial changes isn’t going to be easy. Stick with it, even when it is difficult. A better financial future is possible, but you are going to need to put in some work to get there.

Stop Eating Out

What does your typical dinner look like? If you subsist on burger, fries, milkshakes, and truck stop fare, you’re not doing your body or your budget any favors. If you spend just $10 a meal, three meals a day you’re spending just over $200 a week on food, just on yourself. Save yourself a ton of money and stop eating out.

Without a stove, microwave, and sometimes without even a fridge, eating on the road can seem impossible, but it is doable. Salads and sandwiches are easy to throw together on the fly. Make a quick trip to the grocery store and pick up a few essentials (packaged lunch meat, cheese, bagged salad mix, salad dressing, peanut butter, bread, snacks, etc.) to stock in your truck. If you don’t have a fridge, stow your food in a cooler and replace the ice as needed.

By skipping the restaurants and eating on your own you can easily cut your food budget in half, or more, and you’ll eat better too.

Make a Budget… and Stick to It

If you want to spend less and save more a budget is essential. A budget does more than tell you what to spend; if done correctly it can help you notice spending problems and curb expensive habits.

When you’re on the road you’ll need two budgets: one for your family back at home and another for your expenses in the truck. Base your budgets on the amount you earn during a low mileage week. On weeks when you earn more, put the extra in the bank or use it to pay down debt. This is an excellent way to build up your savings.

Make sure you’re tracking your spending. Write down each purchase and keep a log of what you’ve spent. Go back to analyze your purchases and see how you stacked up. Find problems and make changes as needed.

Don’t Get Cash Advances or Payday Loans

When you’re in a cash crunch a payday loan is incredibly tempting, but these loans don’t actually fix your cash problems; they just delay them. Borrowing $150 from your next check means that you’ll start that month $150 short. Next month you’ll need to borrow more, just to stay afloat.

Live within your means, even if that means scaling back. Find a way to spend less so you can stop relying on payday loans to get through the month. If you’re currently living in the payday loan cycle, get out by creating a new budget (using your low mile income) and spending the extra to pay down the debt.

Other Ideas for Saving Money on the Road

These three tips are biggies for getting your spending and budget under control, but they aren’t the only ways to save. Try some of these bonus ideas too.

  • Automatic Bill Pay– Automatic bill pay is a lifesaver when you’re on the road. Skip the late fees and know that your bills will always be paid on time.
  • CDL Discounts– Many hotels and restaurants offer CDL discounts. If you’re going to eat out or stay in a hotel, it doesn’t hurt to ask if there’s a discount.
  • In-Network ATMs– If you need to get cash, use an in-network ATM so you don’t have to pay expensive fees. If you can’t easily find access an in-network ATM, use your card as debit when buying groceries and get cash back to skip the fees.
  • Truck Stop Rewards– Truck stop reward programs offer some great perks, including shower credits and free drinks, and many don’t charge for signing up

What are your secret tips for saving money on the road?

What Insurance, Permits, Etc. Do I Need to Get Started?

One of the biggest questions we encounter from new drivers is, “What do I need?” Interstate truckers need a variety of permits, registrations, insurance policies, etc. to ensure they are in compliance with various state and federal laws. We can help you with the specifics for your situation (just give us a call), but this will give you a good idea of where to start.

Permits, Authority, and More… What Do I Need?

The various regulatory permits and registrations needed can vary quite a bit depending on which states you’ll be running through, but there are a few basics you’ll most likely need. Let’s take a look:

·         DOT Number

·         FMCSA MC Authority

·         Truck Registration

o   IRP

o   Unified Carrier Registration or UCR (formerly Single State Registration or SSRS)

o   IFTA (International Fuel Tax Agreement)

·         Individual State Permits- Some states require additional permits and fees. Things like oversize and overweight permits only apply if your specific load requires it, but some fees apply to even standard sized loads. For example you may encounter Weight Distance Taxes, fuel taxes that are paid to the state directly (and not charged with fuel), property taxes, and other required permits and fees.

Insurance… How Much Coverage Is Enough?

Although you may need higher limits, depending on your circumstances, the following coverages are most common for trucking and transportation:

·         $1 Million Commercial Auto Liability

o   $1,000 Deductible  for Physical Damage Coverage

·         $100,000 Motor Truck Cargo

o   $1,000 Deductible Non-Owned Trailer Coverage

The best way to determine how much insurance you need specifically is to talk with one of our agents. We aren’t just here to sell a policy, but to educate, inform, and help you in your journey. We want you to have access to the highest quality insurance products at highly competitive rates. We can help you determine what coverage you need and which insurer can best provide it.

Getting started in the transportation industry can be confusing, but don’t let that stop you. We’re here  to help you figure out what you need so you can… Travel with Care.

How Can I Improve My SMS and SAFER Scores?

In our last blog post we talked a bit about SMS and SAFER scores. This month we’d like to take a deeper look at these scores and find ways to improve them. How can you reduce your scores? By better understanding your scores and taking a few simple precautions you can improve your ratings. At Western Truck Insurance Services we love helping you save money on your insurance and great safety scores might just save you a bundle.

Tips for Improving Your Scores

We want you to “Travel with Care” and a big part of this is safety. While improving your scores might help you save money on insurance, more importantly it will help you to become a safer driver, helping you to make home after those long hauls and ensuring that the roads are safe for all of us. Here are some tips for improving your scores and becoming a safer driver.

·         Buckle Up– With long hours on the road it is tempting to leave that seatbelt unbuckled, but this is one easy way to protect yourself. Buckle up as soon as you get into the truck. Make it a habit.

·         Hang Up– Cell phone violations are a big deal. Make a commitment to not use your phone while driving. Instead focus on the road. You can check your text messages and make important phone calls when you come to your next stop.

·         Inspect Yourself– Don’t wait for violations to be discovered at an inspection; inspect yourself. Periodically give yourself a mental inspection and see how you’d do. Are you log books up to date? Is your truck in good repair? Are you speeding? Finding your potential problems before an inspection will give you time to make the needed adjustments and become a safer driver.

·         Check Your Data– When was the last time you used DataQs to check your safety data? Just like you should regularly check your credit score, you should check your safety scores for errors too. If you find any inaccurate information, get it checked and amended.

·         Educate Yourself– Even the safest drivers can use a little reminder now and then. The FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) has created an online resource that commercial drivers can use to improve safety practices. Common driving errors are discussed with tips for improvement. Short video clips are available to further teach and train. This is a great resource for any commercial driver.

·         Make Safety a Priority– Inspections might catch violations, but if you’re doing everything you’re supposed to do these violations will be few and far between. Focus on safety, not on your scores. When you institute safe driving practices the scores will follow. Safety should be your first priority. It’s more important than getting a load to its destination on time or squeezing in a few extra miles in the day.

What are you going to do to improve your safety ratings? We encourage each driver to take a few minutes and renew their commitment to driving safely. SMS and SAFER scores might help you to remember the importance of safety, but even without these scores we want you to get there safe.

 

General Liability – What is General Liability, Who Needs It, What does it Cover?

A form of Insurance designed to protect Owners and Operators’ businesses from a wide variety of liability exposures.  These exposures could include liability arising out of accidents resulting from the premises or the operations of an insured, products sold by the insured, operations completed by the insured, and contractual liability.

General Liability insurance is the first major layer of protection for claims of bodily injury or property damage against your business.  General Liability covers you, but it also covers many others involved in your business, such as:

  • If you have a joint venture or partnership, all of your partners, members and their spouses are protected if they are sued for something they do in an official capacity related to your business
  • If your business is a corporation, your policy covers all of your business executive officers, stockholders and directors while they are acting in their official capacities
  • If you have subsidiaries, your policy liability coverage extends to any subsidiary where you own at least 50 percent of the stock
  • Your employees are also protected from claims that result from actions they take in their capacity as employees.
  • If you have a written agreement to indemnify a person or organization, such as a vendor, that person or organization would be protected against liability claims for property damage or bodily injury as a result of selling or distributing your products
  • Anyone legally associated with your business, including volunteers working under your direction, are covered for liabilities that result from the work they do for you, and for the use or maintenance of your property that is in their care

What GL Insurance Provides

  • Bodily Injury
    – Covers Medical Costs
    – Loss Of Services
    – Court Awarded Compensation for deaths that result form Injury.
  • Property Damage
    – Physical damage to the property or
    – Loss of use of the property

Coverages

General Aggregate – limit that will be paid during any one policy period.
Occurrence – limit for the sum of damages and medical expenses because of all bodily injury and property damages arising out of any one occurrence.
Products & Completed Operations Aggregate –  limit for damages because of bodily injury and property damage.
Personal & Advertising Injury – limit for the sum of all damages because of all  personal and advertising injury sustained by any one person or organization.
Damage to Rented Premises – limit for damages because of property damage to any one premises while rented to you, or in the case of fire, while rented to you or occupied by you with permission of the owner.
Medical Expenses – limit for all medical expenses because of bodily injury sustained by any one person.

Rating

There are four main ways to rate General Liability:

  • Trucker’s Payroll
  • Gross Receipts
  • Number of Units
  • Area (square feet)

Excess Liability

  • Insurance that is excess over any other insurance, whether it is primary, excess, contingent or on any other basis.
  • Fire, Extended Coverage, Builder’s Risk, Installation Risk or similar coverage for your work
  • Fire insurance for premises rented to you or temporarily occupied by you with permission of the owner
  • Insurance purchased by you to cover your liability as a tenant for property damage to premises rented to you or temporarily occupied by you with   permission of the owner

When this insurance is excess, there will be no duty to defend the insured against any suit if any provider of other insurance has a duty to defend the insured against that suit. If no provider of other insurance defends, we will undertake to do so, but we will be entitled to the insured’s rights against all those providers of other insurance.

  • When this insurance is excess over other insurance, we will pay only our share of the amount of the loss, if any, that exceeds the sum of:
  • The total amount that all such other insurance would pay for the loss in the absence of this insurance
  • The total of all deductible and self-insured amounts under all such other insurance.
  • We will share the remaining loss, if any, with any other insurance that is not described in this Excess Insurance provision.

Truck Accident Claims Reporting and Handling

It seems that one of the more consistent areas of needed improvement for truckers, whether large fleet, small fleet or owner operators, is in the approach to claims reporting. This writer, who actively receives claims, has seen the gambit in claims reporting from well documented detail to virtually no information provided at all.

So what’s the big deal?  Why collect any information at all, especially if there will be a police report available anyway? The answer to these questions is not always obvious to the truck driver who is feeling threatened by the consequences, regardless of whether the accident was the driver’s fault.

Approximately 30% of truck accidents are never reported by truck drivers. Most of those “non-reports” are not-at-fault accidents and the drivers just “presume” the other party will take care of their own damages. Many, however, are the result of a driver either embarrassed about the incident or hopeful it will just disappear. Finally, quite a number of these non reported accidents are the result of the driver just not knowing what to do.

Accident reporting is simple. Just about every insurance company and/or agent provides an accident report form directly to the motor carrier or driver. That form is the basis for collecting information about the accident and all drivers should carry that form in their truck. It is the responsibility of fleet safety personnel to make sure the form is in all trucks and that drivers are continuously trained on how to complete it.

At the time of any collision, fire, theft, or other loss, the driver should take a deep breath and go into, what I call, “the data collection mode”. This should be a non-emotional, fact gathering, state of mind. There should be no admitting or blaming for wrong doing with other parties. The driver should immediately grab the accident report form and begin asking questions and documenting information.

The first, and most obvious, is to assess whether anyone is hurt including the other driver and anyone else involved. Assuming the other driver has not been hurt and can actively participate in obtaining details, he/she should get themselves, all other parties, and the vehicles out of harm’s way if at all possible.

Once safely out of danger, the driver should note the date, time, and specific location of the occurrence on the report form. Also write down the description of the other vehicles involved, license plate numbers, and note how many people were in other vehicles.  Again, document this information on the report form. Before the police arrive, the driver should courteously approach the other parties and invite them to assist by exchanging contact information including name, address, phone numbers, email addresses, and insurance information.   No discussion of who was at fault should occur as that only leads to everyone becoming defensive and uncooperative. If the driver has a camera, or phone equipped with one, it is advisable to take pictures of everything.

After exchanging information, the driver should clearly write out an honest description of what occurred along with a graphic diagram of the incident. Doing so will help everyone visually understand the nature of the verbal and written details. Once this has been completed, the fleet safety manager (if applicable), a representative from the insurance company, and/or the insurance agent should be contacted.

Generally, the biggest stumbling block we run into is with the driver not moving quickly to obtain the above information, and then when police arrive and separate the parties, it’s too late for the driver to obtain the much needed information.

Claims that are reported immediately and with complete information are almost always settled at a lower cost than those that are not reported quickly and with detail. All drivers should make sure they carry the claim report form in their vehicles at all times.