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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.

Security Tips for Trucking Companies

The trucking industry is a prime target for theft and criminal enterprise. Thieves look for vulnerable trucks where cargo can easily be stolen. Fortunately, drivers can take measures to protect valuable cargo. Low-tech measures, such as king pin locks, glad hand locks or fuel-line shut-offs might slow the bad guys down, but aren’t always enough to protect a truck.

Security Starts With Awareness

Tight security for truckers starts before drivers ever get into the cab. Training employees about security issues can help them be more aware and understand why certain procedures are so important. Here are some tips to help your company implement solutions to cargo theft

  1. Use technology to route shipments. GPS tracking systems can now send a security alarm to the company if a truck goes off its route. Factor in security when routing. Avoid hot spots where cargo theft is higher.
  2. Have drivers maintain regular contact with dispatch.
  3. Keep cargo moving, because it’s more likely that a load will be stolen when it’s unattended. Teams are recommended to help keep cargo on the road and to give drivers another person to lean on when tired or losing focus. If a team isn’t a possibility, drive in tandem with another truck.
  4. Never leave trucks unattended or allow drivers to take a load home. Emphasize that drivers should always stop in well-lit places or a secure yard.
  5. When parking, put trucks tail to tail to prevent rear trailers from being opened with goods on board. Alternatives to parking tail to tail include parking against a building or another object that doesn’t allow the door to be opened.
  6. Offer specialized training against cargo theft. Teach drivers what to look for and how to drive with increased awareness.
  7. Make sure drivers know to be careful about what they say. Don’t talk about the cargo in the truck or give out route information, especially on the CB.
  8. Ensure all drivers follow delivery and pickup protocols. Make sure drivers request ID from personnel who unload trucks. Audit protocols periodically.
  9. Check for dishonest employees. Run background checks on all employees who have access to shipping and routing information. Watch for employees who are loose with standards and don’t allow security breaches to go unnoticed.
  10. Use low-tech measures. Drivers should take the keys with them when the truck is unattended and doors need to be locked. Before walking away from a trailer, check locks. It’s easy to be talking to someone at a rest station and forget.
  11. Be suspicious of people who claim you hit their car. This is a ruse that thieves use to get people to stop.
  12. Work with other trucking companies to get information about potential issues in your community and industry. Alliances can really increase the safety of cargo and drivers because you work together to prevent theft.
  13. Many thefts occur close to pickup points and terminals. Be extra careful after picking up a load. Give drivers time to get away from the pickup point before stopping.

When All Else Fails

Fleet owners should have a plan in case a driver is hijacked. Giving the load over to a thief is generally preferred than getting hurt or worse to protect the freight. Instead of fighting, teach drivers to be a good witness to give law enforcement a better chance at apprehending the criminals.

Observe everything. Don’t just look at what is happening but pay attention to sounds and what is being said. Notice details. Keep a business card with company information and contact phone numbers in your wallet or on your person. Notify the authorities immediately.

Cybersecurity Issues

It doesn’t matter whether your company is small or large, cyber threats are a growing problem in today’s business industry. Hackers aren’t only trying to steal information or data. Some just want to create chaos by disrupting the infrastructure of an important industry. Cyber security for fleets has to be a priority. Here are some tips to help your company create and maintain a plan that prevents security issues:

  • Train employees to generate strong passwords and to recognize phishing emails
  • Have a way to encrypt emails which contain secure information
  • Use best practices for security protocol
  • Use comprehensive antivirus and malware programs
  • Update software and operating systems for security patches
  • Limit password attempts
  • Be proactive in maintaining your website and OS
  • Backup your software
  • Have a disaster recovery plan in place
  • Review your IT department and update as necessary

Audit Your Security Infrastructure

Don’t be afraid to check drivers and other employees to ensure that they are operating securely. You may find gaps in your plan by conducting audits. Talk to others in the trucking industry to find out how their businesses are operating safely. Make safety and security part of your regular risk management plan to prevent theft or hacking.

How Long Can Truckers Drive Before Taking a Break?

Regulations are in place for all commercial truck drivers to ensure they are not being overworked. A tired or worn out trucker is a danger to his or herself and everyone else on the road. The main restrictions on drivers are the hours they can drive and mandatory breaks. These rules are set by the United States Department of Transportation.

Duty Periods

The DOT breaks the time a driver is working into work and duty periods.  A work period is like a work week, whereas a duty period is like a work day. Because drivers do not always work conventional hours, DOT regulations are based on the actual hours worked and not specific hours during the day. So, for example, a work week could start at 5:00 pm on a Tuesday or 3:00 am on a Saturday and can be different for every trucker.

There is a seven-day work period for truck drivers. Drivers can work seven days in a row but must have a break of at least 34 hours in a row before starting a new seven day work period. To understand this better, consider this schedule:

  • Bert ends his seven day work period on Sunday at 6:00 pm. Following the 34 hour rule, his start up time would be 4:00 am on Tuesday.

The work period runs from the start time and date to that date and time the next week. For example:

  • If a driver begins the work period at 6:00 am on Sunday, then it ends at 6:00 am the next Sunday.

To begin a new work period, a trucker must have ten hours off work. The total number of hours that can be worked in a work period is 60.

Each duty period lasts 14 hours, which is known as the 14-hour rule. Drivers can drive for up to 11 hours during the duty period. However, after driving for eight hours, the driver must take a break of at least 30 minutes. Breaks of any kind count against the 14 hours duty period time. Here’s an example of a daily schedule that follows this rule:

  • Bert starts his work day at 6:00 am.
  • Bert takes a 30 minute break after eight hours at 2:00 pm.
  • He then drives from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm.
  • He takes another break to eat dinner from 4:00 pm until 5:30 pm.
  • Bert only has one more hour that he can drive, so he drives from 5:30 pm until 6:30 pm, at which time he reaches his destination.
  • Bert may then work unloading the truck or doing other non-driving duties until 8:00 pm when his 14 hour period is over.

So, the driver can drive for 11 of the 14 hours and do other things, such as getting fuel, for the other three hours. At the 14 hour limit, though, the driver can no longer drive and must take 10 hours off before starting a new duty period.

Exceptions

As with most things, there are exceptions to the basic rules. If a driver is starting and ending at the same location for a one day assignment, then the driver may work 16 hours. The actually driving time, though, is still limited to 11 hours. If there is a lay-over, then this exception cannot be used. This can only be used once in a period and requires a 34 hour break before it can be used again.

Bad weather can slow a truck down, so this can also cause an exception to be allowed. If road conditions are bad, a driver can take up to two extra driving hours during his or her duty period. The 14-hour duty period limit, though, still stands. This exception can only be taken when the extra driving hours are needed to reach a safe place to stop and get off the road.

Penalties

If a driver does not comply with DOT rules on breaks and work hours, there are penalties that will be assessed. These include:

  • Revocation of driving privileges until a rest break is complete
  • Fines at the state and federal levels
  • Reduction in carrier’s safety rating

A carrier may face even stiffer penalties at the federal level, especially if it is found to have knowingly made drivers break the law.

Possible Changes

It can be tough for drivers to maintain the hour and break requirements, especially when under pressure to get loads to their destinations on time. Many find the 14-hour rule to be especially difficult when break times are included against it.

Because of this, some lawmakers think there is a need for changes in the DOT hours of service. A bill, called the REST Act, is currently being proposed to change the ruling on breaks counting against the 14-hour limit. The act seeks to give drivers up to a three consecutive hour break period that does not count towards their 14 hours. The Act also aims to use this new three hour break to eliminate the 30 minute break requirement.

Regardless of whether changes occur or not, DOT is strict about the hours a trucker can drive. This is to help prevent them from driving when tired or otherwise unable to pay proper attention to the roadway, thus keeping everyone on the road safer.

How Truck Drivers Can Avoid Rush Hour Traffic

Ask any truck driver how they manage to avoid rush hour traffic and you’ll likely get a sarcastic answer or a chuckle in response.  This may be due to the fact that rush hour, in some locations, never really ends. Instead, the heavy flow of traffic continues night and day without really ever ceasing.  A few examples of cities like this include Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York City, Atlanta and Dallas.

Meet the 14-Hour Clock

While some truckers respond to the humor that there is never an end to rush hour, others may react with a surprising level of frustration. Instead of talking about frustrating traffic, you may find yourself in a bizarre conversation about a 14-hour clock and forced bedtimes. Those not familiar with the ever-tightening driving laws in the trucking industry need only ask a driver to understand the startling level of frustration many professional drivers are experiencing.

Basically, the 14-hour “On Duty Shift” law was put into effect in July of 2013. Groups lobbying for safer highways and roadways frequently come up with ideas to help ensure drivers get enough sleep and are not a danger to other motorists because they are driving drowsy. This law states that a driver cannot legally work more than 14 hours out of 24 and no more than 11 of those hours can be spent driving.

Unfortunately, work, in this law, is defined as being on duty. And for a trucker, being on duty can mean being stopped in a traffic jam, waiting to have your trailer loaded, completing a pre-trip inspection, even taking time off to use the restroom. This ungainly law creates some truly bizarre timeframes as drivers are completely controlled by a button that starts the clock and a different button that says when their day must be complete.

The 14-Hour Clock and Rush Hour

Before drivers were forced to comply with a clock that was seemingly counting down the minutes before they must stop for the day, many drivers chose to avoid rush hour like the plague. Today, drivers with only a certain amount of time remaining on that clock no longer have the option of pulling into a rest area and sleeping or resting for a few hours while they wait for traffic to lighten. Instead, they must contribute to the traffic problem hoping that commuters in a hurry will leave enough room in front of them and behind them that they will not be involved in an accident.

Methods for Coping with Rush Hour

There are a few tips for professional drivers who simply cannot avoid driving in rush hour. They certainly do not take the stress out of the drive but may help to lighten the load just a little.  A few of these tips include:

  • Know when rush hour hits – Each major city seems to have a life ad traffic pattern of its own. Keep a record of what the typical times of day rush hour occurs and do your best to avoid them.
  • Take a break beforehand – In cases where rush hour cannot be avoided, try to take a quick break beforehand. Even a 10-minute stop to walk around and eat a high-protein snack may help a driver to be at his or her best.
  • Complete focus on the road – Make sure your truck is well organized and things are put away correctly. This way you can make sure nothing starts rolling around in the cab of your truck and your entire focus can be on the road. Also, avoid snacking, changing the radio stations or using the CB radio in rush hour traffic as any distraction can lead to an unfortunate accident.
  • Check Google Maps – Before entering a city where there is sure to be rush hour traffic, take a break and check Google Maps. Quite frequently it will show where the worst traffic spots are and even show different routes that may save time and frustration.
  • Maintain recommended spacing – Maintaining the correct spacing between your rig and the cars around you is easier said than done, especially as some drivers see a truck as the perfect opportunity for a lane change. Be ready for automobiles to pull in front of you, or to pull to close to the back of your trailer and respond appropriately.
  • Pay attention to blind spots – It can be difficult to pay attention to where each car is in relation to your semi, especially in rush hour traffic, but practice can make perfect. Some drivers talk to themselves about which cars are where. This helps them notice when one vehicle disappears into one of their many blind spots.

A New House Bill

A new bill has been proposed in the House of Representatives that many drivers are rooting for. This bill would let truck drivers take a break of up to 3 hours that would not count as part of their 14-hour limit. Should this new bill pass, drivers would once again be able to stop and rest before hitting (and contributing to) rush hour traffic.

Simple Ways Your Trucking Company Can Be More Eco-Friendly

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

Careful Route Planning

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

Slow Down

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

Recognize Opportunities to Turn Your Truck Off

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

Take Good Care of Your Truck

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

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

Upgrade Your Equipment

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

Don’t Forget the Office

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

Intelligent Logistics

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

Stay Informed of Current Regulations

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

Look Into Alternative Fuels

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

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

 

Tips for Starting Out As an Owner Operator

There’s nothing quite like owning your own business and being your own boss, but you have to take care to make the most of your investment of time, money and energy. The right approach and information can mean the difference between success and failure, so be sure you’re armed with new owner operator tips as you build your trucking company.

Know How You’ll Bring in Money

You likely have a loose idea of how you plan on making money as you’re sketching out your truck owner operator business plan, but you’ll be much better off solidifying that idea as much as possible. As an owner operator, there are two main ways to make money: leasing to a carrier and operating on your own by booking your own loads.

If you choose to lease to a carrier, you’ll need to get in touch with recruiters to see what will be expected of you as a driver in regards to how long you’ll be out, the pay you can expect and the type of insurance you’ll need. Be sure to talk to drivers as well to get a balanced idea of what you can expect if you choose to work with a particular carrier.

Like the idea of booking your own loads? Chat with brokers and potential customers, and check out load boards as well. Be clear on what brokers will expect from you and the type of equipment and truck you’ll need to be successful. Know that if you’re brand new to the trucking industry, you’ll have a lot of work ahead of you if you decide to book loads on your own.

Save as Much Money as Possible

Besides money coming in, you’ll also need to think about the money going out as you put your business together. If you don’t yet have a truck, save up as much as possible on a down payment or leasing your truck. Not only will your equipment payments be lower if you offer up a hefty down payment, you’re more likely to have an easier time securing financing with a sizeable down payment.

Besides money for your truck, you also have to think about operational costs. You’ll need trucking insurance and funds for out-of-pocket expenses, maintenance, food, fuel and unexpected repairs. There might also be a period where you’re unable to make runs because of a mechanical breakdown, so plan your budget accordingly.

Boost Your Credit As Much As Possible

Speaking of financing, something else you can do is increase your personal credit score as much as you can before applying for financing. Request a free credit report and look over it for any mistakes or discrepancies that need to be corrected before lenders pull your credit. Pay all bills on time, early if possible, and do your best not to use any more of your credit if you don’t absolutely have to. While you may have to put off launching your business for a little while as you increase your credit score, doing so will only benefit you later in the form of low interest payments, which means more money to funnel into the success of your business.

You might also want to look into getting a business credit card so you can make purchases specifically for your business. This is a good idea so you can keep your personal spending separate from your business spending. Just like your personal credit score, take steps to keep your business credit score as high as possible at all times.

Plan for Preventative Maintenance Before You Need It

Also be sure you think about preventative maintenance, even if you plan on purchasing a brand new truck. While you’re exploring options for which truck you think is the best fit for your business, look into how much preventative maintenance will cost. Even if that maintenance is several years away, putting money back for it now ensures you not only have a means to pay for that necessary maintenance, but that you don’t have to put that maintenance off. Just like with a regular automobile, taking care of small issues and taking steps to keep your rig as fully functional as possible helps avoid unnecessary breakdowns and the equally unnecessary expenses that come with them.

Think About Your Personal Relationships

If you have a spouse, significant other or family, think about how your relationship with them could change while you’re on the road. Issues can develop with you being away from home, so be sure you have this discussion with your loved ones about how you’ll address any problems that might come up in the future so that you don’t risk a disruption in your business or personal life.

Have a solid foundation underneath you before becoming an owner operator. The right insight paired with a little foresight is sure to serve you and your aspirations well.