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What Drivers Need to Know About Personal Conveyance

Personal conveyance has been an issue for truckers and truck owners, and now the FMCSA has responded.

For many trucking companies, December of 2017 marked the beginning in a whole new, electronically monitored, era in trucking. December was the deadline when companies were required to provide an Electronic Logging Device (or ELD) in each truck. Though the tiny flash drive type device plugged into the engine control module of the truck does not look like much, many truckers have stated publicly that this new mandated “mini boss” has made life more difficult instead of having the intended effect of making America’s highways and byways a little safer.

The ELD Deadline has Passed, now what?

Why the Mandate?

Those who support the new law insist that it makes perfect sense to replace the decades-old practice of having drivers record their own hours of service in a paper logbook. Some state that the new electronic logs will be more accurate while others insist they will be more difficult to rewrite when extra time is needed. They also insist that drivers will save time because they will not need to compile so much paperwork and that dispatchers will have a reduced workload with the ability to see all electronic information at a glance.

What is the Reality?

In reality, the hours of service that truckers are allowed to be behind the wheel have not changed. These current hours of service rules state that a driver may be on duty for 14 hours out of 24 but must then spend 10 off-duty hours before driving again. And while this sounds reasonable to most individuals, truck drivers and fleet operators know that current hours of service regulations combined with ELD regulations have brought a host of unanticipated problems. Sadly, these problems cost carriers money, time, and the ability to earn a living as kinks in the system are being worked out.

Faulty ELD Systems

Anyone who says they have never seen technology fail might not understand what technology actually is. The FMSCA reported in March of 2018 that more than 300 ELD devices on the market do not even meet the specifications needed so a driver can show logged hours to a member of law enforcement if they are pulled over. As bad as this is, it does not even begin to cover the number of units that have been sold and do not work properly.

There are too many drivers being ticketed simply because their ELD quits working at random times and they are unable to connect with the needed tech-support people. Some drivers say they have spent as many as 15 hours on the phone, both on hold and with a company representative trying desperately to get the required technology working. And this is time when the truck is still, the wheels are not allowed to roll, so no money is being made.

Add to this the fact that some ELD systems do not calculate hours or mileage correctly, some even showing that a driver is in an entirely different state and the new ELD requirement has had a very rocky start.

The “Right Now” of Electronic Logs

One basic thing that electronic logs lack is the ability to think, plan and consider as a human being might. And this leaves too many drivers dealing with a system that tells them to do x,y, or z immediately.  Drivers, however, know that this is not always possible.

For instance, when a driver is heading for a place to get loaded or unloaded and the system suddenly says that the 14 hours of driving is up, the system wants the driver off the road immediately.  Right now.  And this is simply impossible as parking a semi for the night requires more than just pulling off the road and setting the brake.

New Personal Conveyance Guidelines

Thankfully, the FMCSA listened to what drivers were saying about not being able to find parking quickly enough to satisfy the system and published some new guidelines about personal conveyance at the end of May.  Previous guidelines date back to 1997 and state that “laden” vehicles could not be used for personal conveyance (or getting to a safe parking spot).

The new regulations state there may be valid reasons for a driver to continue driving, whether there is a load on the trailer or not. The new guidelines allow for drivers to use their vehicles to get to a nearby safe parking place. To date, no limits have been set on distance but most drivers understand that they will be required to produce the ELD logs should they get pulled over, and that an officer has the right to determine if they have driven too far under the personal conveyance guidance.

Personal Conveyance Essentials

There are a few nitty-gritty parts to the new personal conveyance stipulations that drivers should know.  They include:

  1. The new guidelines are not legally required. A carried may decide to allow or not allow personal conveyance in a company vehicle.
  2. If a carrier allows personal conveyance, they are not allowed to place limits on things such as number of miles or times of day.
  3. Clear company policy on personal conveyance should be provided to each driver.
  4. Personal conveyance may only be used during off-duty hours.

FMCSA is Listening to Drivers and Carriers

At the very least, the changes to personal conveyance stipulations show that the FMCSA is listening to what drivers and carriers are saying about the new electronic logbook mandate. Hopefully, things will only get better as drivers, carriers and the government work together to find solutions that will truly make the industry better for all involved.

Truck Driving at Night – 5 Safety Tips for Driving Semi at Night

Truck driving at night has its pros and cons. For many truckers, nighttime is the best time to drive. In most locations, this means no cars on the road, less roadwork and beautiful views. That said, truck driving at night can be dangerous. Half of all traffic accidents occur in the evening and night hours. Those accidents are typically the result of one main factor: fatigue. According to several studies, drowsy driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving, and comes with many of the same side effects, including confusion, hallucinations, muscle weakness, impaired decision making and slow reaction times.

Drowsy driving is a top cause of trucking accidents, which is why the federal government stepped in and created truck driving regulations that all drivers—whether self-employed or employed, and throughout all states—must abide by. A few of those regulations dictate how many hours a trucker is permitted to drive in any given workday and workweek, and how often a trucker must stop to rest. However, none of those regulations dictate during which hours a trucker must haul his or her cargo.

How Long Can Truckers Drive Before Taking a Break?

Of course, fatigue isn’t the only cause of night time accidents. Other factors that may lead to accidents at night include:

  • Reduced vision
  • Wildlife
  • Drunk drivers
  • Human error

Truck Driving at Night – 5 Safety Tips

If you’re a trucker and routinely drive at night, there are a few tips that you can implement to stay safe while on the clock.

Avoid Drowsy Driving

Of course, this is easier said than done. Nobody plans to be tired, but there are steps you can take to decrease your risk for fatigue during your normal driving hours.

First and foremost, get a good night’s sleep, and not just the night before you’re set to drive. Get a good night’s sleep every night, as inadequate sleep will catch up with you. Some other things you can do to reduce the risk of drowsy driving incidents include taking regular breaks, sharing the drive, staying alert for other tired drivers and pulling over to take a nap when you begin to feel tired.

Avoid Impaired Vision

Impaired vision is not uncommon at nightfall. No matter how great you think your vision is, certain factors can get in the way of what lies on the road ahead. Some such factors include your dashboard lights, a dirty windshield, oncoming traffic, driving too fast, using your phone or not wearing the proper eye gear. Some steps you can take to reduce accidents caused by impaired version include:

  • Dim your dashboard lights
  • Drive the speed limit
  • Avoid looking at oncoming traffic
  • Refrain from using your phone
  • Clean your windshield
  • Wear prescription glasses (if required)

Ways to Reduce Distractions While you Drive

Keep Your Eyes Peeled

No matter how safe of a driver you are, there is not much that you can do about other drivers on the road, or wildlife for that matter. Both wildlife and drunk drivers have a tendency to come out of nowhere, which can mean bad news for those driving truck at night. Though you cannot necessarily prevent an animal or impaired driver from crossing your path, you can control how you react to it. By remaining vigilant and keeping your eyes peeled on the road ahead of you, you can give yourself adequate time to prepare and act accordingly.

Maintain Your Vision

You cannot control the vision you were born with, but you can control what you make of it. The American Optometric Association recommends that all individuals, and not just those with bad vision, get checkups every three years before the age of 40, and every two years between the ages of 40 and 60. An optometrist can ensure that your vision is healthy and, if it’s not, ensure that you have the contact lenses or glasses so that it appears that way.

Drive the Speed Limit

You may be in a hurry to get to the next job, but driving fast may set you back even further. Speeding can result in both traffic tickets and accidents. If you’re driving too fast, you may not see that animal jump out at you, or that drunk driver coming from the side. Do yourself and others on the road a favor and drive the speed limit.

Truck Drivers – Nighttime Driving Safety Tips [YouTube Video]

Night Driving Recap

Truck driving at night can be both peaceful and rewarding, but it can also be dangerous. Stay safe and drive smart by implementing these simple tips into your routine:

  • Avoid drowsy driving
  • Avoid impaired vision
  • Keep your eyes peeled
  • Maintain your vision
  • Drive the speed limit

If you are involved in an accident, your trucking liability insurance should be able to cover the cost of damages. However, insurance is just a fallback measure, and it cannot keep you or other drivers on the road safe from harm. Your own common sense and good judgement can. Exercise both when out on the open road and you may be able to avoid night time accidents altogether.

Cook in a Semi Truck – Great Tips to Eat Smart While on the Road

Want to cook in a semi truck? If you’re tired of greasy burgers, so-so tacos, fried chicken and all you can eat buffets, you’re not alone. A trucker’s diet can be hard on the body and morale. In fact, some truckers are so fed up with eating unhealthy and flavorless meals they devise ways truckers can cook home-style meals on the road.

If you’re tired of spending your hard-earned money on gas station food and fast food joints, change your ways and start cooking on the road. With a little bit of planning and the right truck driver cooking equipment, you can start cooking on the road in no time.

Invest in the Right Equipment

If your truck isn’t already equipped with a mini fridge, stove, microwave, coffee pot and crock pot, chances are you’re new to the industry. Take a look at any trucker’s rig and you’ll discover that the back of their cab resembles a mini studio. A 12-V cooler can keep your drinks cool on hot summer days, and a mini coffee pot can ensure that you always stay energized no matter the time of day.

Tools Every Truck Driver Needs On the Road

There are plenty of safe cooking appliances as well. Small microwaves, electric frying pans and grills and lunchbox ovens are all perfectly safe ways to prepare a homemade meal on the go. If you’re more of the outdoorsy type, get a small propane grill. However, make sure that you take it outside before you light it up, otherwise you risk carbon monoxide poisoning.

Before you go around buying all of the above listed appliances, make sure that your truck’s power supply can handle them all. You don’t want to sacrifice a load just because you decided to make a homemade pizza in your new mini pizza oven.

Stock Up on Easy-to-Prep Food Items

Steak, potatoes, chicken breast, asparagus, cheese, bread, carrots…there are plenty of foods out there that don’t require much prep work to make yet that still taste good going down. Those foods also happen to be good for you. Before you hit the road, make a list of the meals you’re going to want to eat and what you need for each. Then hit the grocery store. Remember, you’re working with limited space, so don’t treat your grocery shopping as you would when shopping for your home.

When shopping, remember that the point of making your own foods is two-fold: to save money and to eat healthier. While one meal a month of steak and potatoes is actually good for you, loading up on just steak and potatoes is both bad for your body and your wallet. Stick to cheap, bulk foods that still deliver a nutritional punch. Think chicken, fish, turkey, yogurt, fruits and veggies. Don’t forget the spices, as you probably want to enjoy more flavorful foods than your average Mickey D’s can deliver.

Meals for Every Meal

If you’re not much of a cook, it can be hard to come up with easy-to-prepare meals that are both tasty and healthy. It can also be difficult to come up with variety. If you need some inspiration, consider making the following meals:

Breakfast

  • Omelets
  • Waffles
  • Oatmeal
  • Pancakes
  • Eggs
  • Turkey bacon

Lunch

  • Sandwiches
  • Salad
  • Leftovers
  • Tuna
  • Pizza
  • Mac and cheese
  • Grilled cheese

Dinner

  • Stew
  • Pot roast
  • Burgers
  • Hotdogs
  • Steaks
  • Chicken
  • Soup
  • BBQ pork
  • Stroganoff

Of course, you don’t want to forget sides and snacks. Pastas, rice, fruits, veggies and salads make for tasty and healthy sides to any of the above. If you have a sweet tooth, pack a pint of ice-cream or freeze a candy bar or two for an after-dinner treat.

When in Doubt, Meal Prep

If cooking in a semi truck doesn’t sound appealing, or if you just don’t trust yourself to summon up the energy and willpower to prep your own meals come meal time, consider simple and delicious meal prep ideas for truck drivers. If you have a spouse, let him or her give you a hand. In fact, meal prepping could be your guys’ way of bonding while you’re out on the road, and it can even allow you two to “share a meal” even when you’re miles apart.

Bonding moments aside, meal prep only requires a few hours of your time but can yield amazing results. Some people have gotten so good at meal prepping that they can make a whole week’s worth of food in just a few hours’ time. Those meals are generally healthier than what many other people make fresh. Once your meals are made, you can store them in small, reusable containers, which you can easily stow in your mini fridge. Plus, by meal prepping, you can save space on appliances and allow you more room to sprawl out at night.

Just because you’re a trucker doesn’t mean that you have to eat poorly. With the above tips, cooking in a big rig can be easy and fun, and, if cooking on the job doesn’t appeal to you, you can always jump on board the meal-prep bandwagon.

Tips for Avoiding and Recovering from Skidding in a Big Rig

Though they are commonplace on the highways and byways of the United States, many drivers of non-commercial vehicles know little about the massive size, weight and power of 18-wheelers. Sadly, this lack of knowledge frequently means that these drivers make many mistakes around the big rigs, mistakes that may result in the loss of many lives.

Most of today’s semis have two drive axles and one steering axle. The trailer is attached fifth-wheel style and can move forward or backward over the back axles to help make sure weight is distributed evenly. Pulling only one trailer, a typical tractor-trailer weighs around 73,000 lbs. Due to the massive weight of the vehicle, normal driver reaction time and speed, a semi-truck can take up to 525 feet to fully stop. This comes as a surprise to many non-commercial drivers because normal cars and trucks can typically stop in less than 200 feet.

Knowing Your Rig

New truck drivers receive comprehensive training about driving, following distances, weather conditions and many other occurrences that may impact their driving. One of the most important parts of training is what drivers learn about skidding. In essence, a skid means that a semi’s wheels have lost grip of the road which means the driver has lost control of the semi.

Being familiar with your truck is critical to avoiding a skidding semi-truck. For instance, being familiar with the brake pedal in your vehicle can help you to apply the right amount of pressure instead of slamming on the breaks. Unfortunately, brakes that are hit with too much force frequently cause at least one set of tires to lock up and skid. And once the trailer enters a skid, it can be difficult, if not impossible to stop.

Knowing your vehicle also helps to understand stopping distances with reference to how much weight is on their trailer, what weather is doing and how heavy traffic is. One good rule of thumb for commercial drivers is that they should always overestimate how long it will take to stop. In cases where drivers underestimate this distance, a trailer may skid into a jackknife and may need to be towed back to safety.

Semi trucks today are built with an incredibly useful tool that is not available on cars.  The Jake Brake, also known as the engine brake, can help drivers slow an engine on a decline and even moderate slowing down to ensure the semi does not go into a skid.

Knowing Your Route

Making sure one is familiar with a route before starting the trip is another way to avoid a skid in a big rig. By taking time to review the types of roads along the route, the elevations of these roads and the times of day when traffic might be the heaviest, drivers can prepare in advance.

One recent news story told of a semi driver who was unfamiliar with a route and followed his GPS blindly up a remote mountain location. When the driver tried to turn around and descend the mountain, the truck began skidding toward a steep bank and got stuck in mud and snow.  Because the driver had no cell phone service, he left the truck and attempted to walk through the forest to find help. In the end, he ended up walking for three days before finding an interstate and flagging down help. Perhaps this situation could have been avoided had the driver taken time to familiarize himself with the route prior to starting his trip.

Prevention is Key

Keeping prevention at the forefront is key to overall trucker safety which then enhances the safety of all on the road. Unfortunately, part of prevention is that commercial drivers must always be vigilant and aware that other drivers on the road simply may not understand the perils that accompany big rig accidents. Many drivers today say their top complaint is that leaving a safe following distance in a semi is next to impossible.

Truckers also state that many drivers simply do not realize that they have a rather large blind spot behind the trailer and next to the driver’s door. Though a truck driver can use mirrors more effectively than most drivers on the road, they are not magic. If a car cannot see a trucker’s mirrors, then they should assume that a driver cannot see their car.

Have a Plan B

As with every well-laid plan, a commitment to avoid skidding does not always come to fruition. In the case drivers encounter a skidding semi-truck they should be prepared to take action quickly. Should the back wheel skid, drivers should be prepared to take their foot off the gas pedal and avoid breaking until the skidding has ceased. Should the front wheels skid, it is best to use the brake only lightly as drivers bring a truck to a full stop as soon as possible.  Finally, in the instance that a drive wheel skids due to slippery conditions a driver should engage the clutch and turn the steering wheel gently in the desired direction.

Though it is not possible to avoid all dangerous situations, semi drivers who are prepared and understand what might cause skidding can go a long way to avoid these situations.

Understanding Motor Truck Cargo Insurance

Motor Truck Cargo Insurance is an important, expensive and often times misunderstood coverage.

Most carriers require the owner operator or company transporting their goods to have cargo insurance. This coverage protects the owner of the goods as well as the insured while the cargo is under the care, custody and control of the transporter.

Cargo Limits and Premiums

Cargo limits and premium cost will vary depending on the average load, type of commodities hauled and where the goods are being transported to and from. Average cargo limits range from $20,0000 to $100,000. For example, a household goods mover in California is required by the state to carry a minimum of $20,000 to obtain his PUC authority. Another example might be a trucker hauling electronics and garments. This cargo limit may need to be $250,000. Limits are usually determined by the owner of the goods and this evidence is provided to them by a Certificate of Insurance from the insurance broker.

Cargo Policies

Cargo policies are often misunderstood because of various exclusions and limitations that may not have been discussed during the quoting process. Often times this is due to the fact that the insurance broker may not specialize in trucking and not understand the impact of various exclusions or limitations. This is why it is imperative to deal with a truck broker who knows the transportation business and understands your individual business as well. If a claim occurs there may not be coverage.

Exclusions and Limitations

Exclusions and Limitations may revolve around target commodities such as garments, electronics, and liquor. There may be a sub limit for these categories and higher deductibles. For example, your cargo limit is $50,000 while you haul cracker jacks but one day you took a load of computers and Guess jeans valued at $200,000. Your policy only covers target goods for a maximum loss of $25,000. Therefore, the claim would only pay $25,000 less your deductible of $1,000.

Theft Coverage

Theft coverage is often capped at lower amount than the cargo limit with a higher deductible. For example, your cargo limit is $100,000 but loss due to theft is limited to $25,000 with a $5,000 deductible not $1,000.

Unattended Vehicle Exclusion

Unattended vehicle exclusion is usually found in cargo policies and simply says that if you leave your loaded vehicle unattended and there is a loss there is no coverage. For example, a driver who left his truck loaded at his home or truck stop and a loss occurred would have no coverage.

Check out the Motor Truck Cargo Insurance page for additional information.

Those are just a handful of things to talk about when procuring cargo coverage. Know your insurance broker and let them know what you do. Don’t hide the facts so that down the road you will always know you are insured properly.

How to Find High Paying Truck Loads

There is more to running a trucking company than simply owning some big rigs and scheduling loads. In truth, the trucking industry is incredibly competitive today. In order to survive in this industry, owners must be capable of performing an ongoing juggling act that involves maintenance and upkeep of vehicles, driver training, satisfaction and review, changing government regulations and ever-changing client needs. Each of these facets must be run well or the entire company might suffer. One way that companies can ease some of the burden is to carefully consider the type of freight they haul, as higher-paying loads and a healthy bottom line can lead to less stress overall.

What is a Basic Rate for Freight?

There is no such thing as a basic rate for the freight that trucking companies haul. This is because the nation’s economy is ever-changing. With each rise of fuel prices, prediction of driver shortage or new government regulation which must be followed, freight rates change. For instance, many companies incurred a new cost recently as they were required to forego paper logbooks for drivers, which have been standard in the industry for man years, and instead put computerized log systems, also known as ELDs, into each truck they own.

According to the FMCSA, the average cost per year for these systems will hover near $495 for each truck they are installed in. In January of 2018, the average rate for a refrigerated load had climbed by 18 cents making it to $2.66 per mile. Flatbed rate was a little lower at $2.39 per mile while spot vans were averaging only $2.26 per load. These rates alone mean little until they are compared to the average cost of running a truck or a trucking company.

Costs to Owners

Once again, the cost of owning and running a trucking company is not a simple thing. Fixed costs include things such as truck payments and insurance, office space, health insurance, and permits. Variable costs include items such as fuel, repairs, tires, taxes and lodging for drivers.

In 2018, the overall cost of owning a semi is said to be about $1.38 per mile. In short, it costs around $180,000 to own and operate a commercial truck each year. And when you really look at all these numbers, it is easy to see that getting top-dollar loads is important in order to stay in the industry.

Different Rates for Different Freights

So, is there a trick to finding the highest paying truck loads? The answer seems to be in qualifications and training. Those types of loads that are more difficult, hazardous or require special upgrades to the driver license frequently tend to pay more.

For instance, hauling materials that are considered hazardous, carrying livestock or even pulling a multi-level trailer full of new vehicles may pay more than a normal, everyday reefer load. Drivers who are qualified to pull flatbed trailers also tend to earn more, as the drivers must often help to tarp, chain or strap these large loads so that the items do not shift in traffic. Oversize flatbed loads requiring pilot cars to help move large items from place to place increase in difficulty, necessary skill level and also in rate of pay.

The location of a trucking company and where it is willing to deliver to may also have some impact on how much a load pays. For instance, most companies know that heading into a congested downtown city for pickup or delivery takes considerably more time and effort than delivery in a city that is less congested. Businesses in difficult or congested areas typically pay more per mile so that truck companies will be willing to deal with the hassle.

Find a System that Works

There are many kinds of load boards that help trucking companies match their drivers and equipment to appropriate loads.  Some of these are paid boards while others are free. In most of these systems, a trucking company can search for loads based on trailer type, load destination, pay per mile rate or even by specialty qualifications such as hazmat endorsement.

Some of these boards are set up to draw large trucking companies, while others are built to help find truck loads for owner-operators.  Finding a system that works best for your company, whether it is large or small, is imperative to your business’s success.

With so many of these load boards available, there is simply no reason to settle for the lowest pay on loads. Instead, figure out how you can set your company apart from others on the road. Offer incentives to drivers who are willing to get extra license endorsements, drivers who don’t mind climbing atop a load to properly secure and tarp it, drivers who have the patience to deal with inner-city traffic. Because once the word gets out that a trucking company is willing to go the extra mile for their clients – those higher paying loads tend to become more frequent and may even lead to long-term contracts in the future.

Truck Insurance Payment Options

Within the insurance industry there are a variety of truck insurance payment options (premium billing programs) that you may take advantage of when purchasing truck insurance.

Truck Insurance Payment Options

  • Direct Bill Some insurance companies bill the customer directly without the insurance broker being involved. The customer receives a monthly bill and mails the payment directly to the company. This type of billing may allow various down-payment amounts and balance is billed monthly without an interest or service charge. If the company offers this type of billing some customers prefer this as they can come up with a lower down payment and no interest charge.
  • Premium Financing When an insurance policy is bound through an insurance broker and the insurance company does not offer a billing program the insured has several options. The insurance company must receive full payment immediately from the broker. Therefore, the insured may pay the annual premium in full or pay a down payment and premium finance the balance. The standard for finance billing is to provide a 25% down payment plus fees and the balance is billed over 8 to 9 monthly installments which includes interest. This is a viable alternative, although there are interest charges, as some customers may have large premiums and cannot come up with the annual premium at the time of binding of the policy(s).
  • Continuous Billing Policy Few companies offer this type of billing. With this type of billing the insured at the time of purchasing the insurance would provide a down payment which in effect is a deposit which the company holds until the policy cancels. The annual premium would be divided by 12 months and the insured would provide 2 months as a deposit and make the first months payment. Thereafter, the company will bill the insured monthly. If there are premium changes to the policy during the year more deposit or return of deposit may occur. Although there are no interest charges a monthly service charge may be added to the bill.

    Once a policy is in force there may be premium changes as the insured may add or delete units or coverages. When these changes are requested by the insured the broker will then inform the appropriate insurance companies. If there is an addition of a unit or an increase of coverage an estimate is quoted to the customer and 25% of this premium is collected. If the policy is premium financed the balance of the additional premium will be added the premium financing and billed to the customer. The insurance company received full payment from the finance company. If no financing exists the insured may be required by the broker to provide the full estimated payment or wait until the original endorsement from the company is received to obtain payment. Deletion of coverage or unit will signal the company to return premium to the premium finance company or the insured if there is no financing. These additions and deletions are what cause confusion for the customer. The insurance companies often take from 2 weeks to 6 months to process endorsements and can be a paper lag time.
  • Gross Receipts Billing This type of program is generally for large fleets. The annual gross receipts are provided monthly and that number times the insurance company rating factor will determine your monthly payment. These programs vary greatly depending on the risk.

Those are just a sampling of various billing programs available. It is imperative that you understand the billing process to be able to take advantage of programs that best suit your needs. Take advantage of your truck insurance broker to answer any questions that you may have.

Truck Fleet Insurance Options

Truck Fleet Insurance Options and Payment Plans

The truck fleet operator has several alternatives in structuring their truck fleet insurance coverage and payment plans. But first we need to segment the various fleet sizes to determine what makes the most sense for your operation.

We like to break out fleet sizes as follows:

  • Group I      20 to 50 Units
  • Group II     51 to 100 Units
  • Group III    101 to 500 Units
  • Group IIII   500+ to 50 Units

Group I and II fleets

The alternatives generally involve what payment plans are available and which makes the most sense for the operation.

Generally, these fleet policies are set up on a monthly reporting form. Those are usually based on:

  • Gross Revenue
  • Mileage
  • Schedule of Vehicles

Each of these options has advantages and disadvantages.

  • Gross Revenues policy will have a premium rate (say 3%) which is applied monthly to the revenues generated for the month. This is a simple method for the operator, it allows for optimal cash flow as the premium will follow the income, and is advantageous when the fleet is growing and adding units as there is no immediate increase in the premium.

    A disadvantage to the receipts policy is that if the fleet increases their rates during the year then those increases effectively increase their premium as well. Other disadvantages exist and depend upon the nature of the operations.
  • Mileage based policies are good if the mileage being driven can be easily verified and are fairly stable. If the miles driven fluctuate widely, especially if the miles will increase during the term, then this type policy can wind up being more expensive. The key to this type of policy is to make sure the estimated mileage being used as a basis allows for a sufficient cushion to grow a bit; that is, it not be too low. Again, this type allows for growth in the number of units without an immediate increase in the premium.
  • Scheduled Vehicles reporting is really good for the smaller fleet, say less than 75, where there are only a small amount of vehicle changes. This monthly report of vehicles establishes a monthly premium per unit. It eliminates any mileage or gross revenue reporting and eliminates the potential for premium increases due to higher than expected mileage or revenue. Conversely, it also removes the possibility of adding units without increasing the immediate premium cost.

In each of the three cases above, the fleet operator has a financial incentive to manage their operations better and reduce the number and cost of claims.

Group III and IV fleets

Are usually more interested in some form of risk sharing based upon their claims results. These fleet operations can Reduce the Cost of Insurance by participating in the claims process. That can be done be either placing a liability deductible or accepting a Self Insurance Retention (SIR); which brings the fleet operator directly into the claims process. Finally, the larger fleet operator may even consider creating, or renting, what’s known as a Captive Insurance Company. In this case, the fleet actually manages its’ own insurance company and that company gains or loses on the premium cost depending upon their results. Other benefits can accrue to the Captive option.

Understanding the Many Truck Insurance Coverages

The following is an insurance summary of basic truck insurance coverages for the truck and transportation industry.

Insurance is one of the largest fixed expenses that a trucker or trucking company faces today. It is one area that all individuals and companies need to revisit at least annually to make sure their needs are being met.

There are various factors that impact insurance costs, such driving records, age of the driver, age of equipment, commodities hauled, radius, vehicle location, loss history, years in business and the list goes on.

There are several types of trucking-related insurance coverages:

  • Physical Damage insurance is coverage for your truck and trailer. Your premium is based on the value of your equipment. Usually a percentage of the value. This coverage is not required by law but if you finance your vehicle the lienholder will require it. It is important to insure your vehicle for the real value. Not over or under value the vehicle as the insurance company will only pay market value at the time of the loss.
  • Primary Auto Liability insurance is required by federal regulations. Every carrier must carry liability insurance on every rig even on leased units. Liability insurance protects you when a third party is injured in an accident. Owner-operators should ask when leasing onto a company who will pay for their insurance – the company or from driver weekly settlements.
  • General Liability insurance protects the business for any property damage or bodily injury that might occur which does not involve a truck. Typical examples of this would include the slip and fall exposure at your place of business, advertising related exposures, and/or contractual exposures you may get involved in.
  • Non-Trucking Liability insurance pays for an accident when the driver/truck is not under dispatch. The coverage is sometimes referred to as deadhead coverage or bobtail liability.
  • Non-Owned Trailer Liability coverage protects the trailer you are pulling for someone else.
  • Non-Owned Trailer Physical Damage coverage insures the trailer you are pulling for someone else in the event of loss. $20,000 is somewhat standard for trailers.
  • Trailer-Interchange Liability coverage protects a trailer you are pulling when there is a interchange agreement in force. For example with a steamship line.
  • Cargo Insurance covers damage/loss to freight in transit. This coverage can have many exclusions such as unattended vehicle, maximum theft limitations on target commodities such as garments, liquor, electronics and a whole host of others. It is very important to read this policy closely in the event you think you may be covered for something and you are not.
  • Terminal Coverage protects freight located at specified terminals in the event of loss. Usually there are time limitations related to this coverage. For example: 72 hours maximum per specified load. If the goods are stored longer than the terminal time you would most likely want to purchase Warehouse Legal coverage. Again very important to read your policy. This amount of coverage is dependent on the total amount of goods stored/docked/off-loaded at any one time.
  • Warehouse Legal coverage protects goods stored at specified locations in the event of loss. For example as relates to theft, fire, sprinkler damage. This amount of coverage is dependent on the total amount of goods stored at the location at any one time.

Once you have determined what insurance coverages you desire or need then you can rate shop. It is essential to work with an insurance brokerage, like Western Truck Insurance Services, who understands the trucking industry so that you purchase the right insurance with the best company at the lowest price.

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.