Posted on March 20, 2020
On March 18, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) expanded existing exemptions to further aid emergency relief efforts as the nation grapples with supply shortages. Fleets and commercial vehicles providing direct assistance in emergency relief support efforts benefit from the expanded exemptions. Examples of emergency relief support include:
- Delivering medical tools and supplies to aid in testing, diagnosing, and treating COVID-19
- Delivering sanitary supplies in addition to equipment needed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 such as masks, gloves, soap, hand sanitizer, etc.
- Delivering emergency food supplies to restock grocery stores
- Delivering tools, materials, or individuals required to establish and maintain temporary housing, quarantine, or isolation facilities related to COVID-19
- Transporting individuals identified by Federal, State, or local authorities for medical, isolation, or quarantine purposes
- Transporting individuals that perform medical or emergency services
- Delivering any raw materials needed to manufacture the above essential items
- Delivering fuel
The biggest changes to the order include the addition of raw materials and fuel as exempted cargo. FMCSA further stressed this only applies to legitimate emergency relief efforts. Fleets performing routine deliveries that add an insignificant amount of emergency relief items to their load do not meet the guidelines for exemptions.
Fleets that are exempt don’t need to maintain records of duty status (RODS) logs, but FMCSA recommends making a note in the remarks section of activity logs to identify the exempt hours. This will help mitigate confusion or discrepancies in the future. Like the original declaration, drivers must receive a minimum of 10 hours off-duty time after returning from transporting property and eight hours after transporting passengers.
6 Things Not Covered by the Expanded Exemptions
Fleets and drivers must still adhere to several other safety regulations related to the following:
- Testing for controlled substances and alcohol consumption
- Commercial driver’s license (CDL) requirements
- Insurance requirements
- Transporting hazardous materials
- Size and weight requirements
- Any other regulations not specifically exempted by the updated emergency declaration
Some states are allowing for temporary changes to weight requirements. Many states are also offering a temporary grace period for CDLs on the verge of expiring, as many government offices are closing to adhere to the CDC’s social distancing guidelines.
Interstate Motor Carriers understands there are more questions than answers in these uncertain times. We are here to help your fleet keep pace with emergency relief demands while keeping your drivers safe and your risks in check. Contact us to learn more.
Posted on March 16, 2020
The DOT (U.S. Department of Transportation) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has issued a national emergency declaration to provide HOS relief (hours-of-service regulatory relief) to commercial vehicle drivers who are transporting emergency relief in response to the coronavirus epidemic (COVID-19).
FMCSA’s declaration provides for regulatory relief for commercial motor vehicle operations providing direct assistance supporting emergency relief efforts intended to meet immediate needs, such as:
- Food – for emergency restocking of store/grocery stores
- Equipment, supplies and personnel – for creation and management of temporary housing and quarantine facilities
- Medical supplies – equipment related to testing, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19
- People – designated by authorities for transport needed for medical, isolation or quarantine
- Personnel – needed to provide medical or other emergency services
The emergency declaration also states that truck drivers must receive a minimum of 10 hours off duty if transporting property, and eight hours if transporting passengers, once they have completed their respective delivery for products, services or passengers as noted above.
For more information, visit the FMSCA website: https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/emergency/emergency-declaration-under-49-cfr-ss-39023-no-2020-002
Posted on May 22, 2019
Truck drivers and carriers have complained that many of the existing hours of service (HOS) regulations are too restrictive if not outright impossible to adhere to while maintaining customer expectations for deliveries. However, it is not these complaints that sparked the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s interest in revising the rulings. Instead, the DOT is pulling data from the much-contested electronic logging devices (ELDs) to guide their proposed changes.
How ELDs are Affecting HOS Regulations
ELDs are tamper-proof, unlike their paper records predecessor. The devices wrought an almost instantaneous decrease in HOS violations, resulting in less weary and therefore safer drivers. However, the data also revealed some truths about the transportation industry to FMCSA. Primarily that times and technology have changed customer expectations, and how people do business.
FMCSA’s Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking
FMCSA is seeking commentary on proposed changes in an effort to reduce excessive burdens on truck drivers to remain compliant but without compromising safety on the roads. The proposed revisions include:
- Lengthening the short-haul 100 air-mile exemption from 12 to 14 hours on-duty. This would make the exemption consistent with existing regulations for long-haul commercial drivers.
- Permit a temporary two-hour increase for the 14-hour on-duty limitation when drivers encounter unfavorable driving conditions.
- Reinstating the option to allow truck drivers to split the mandatory 10-hour off-duty rest time so long as the driver’s truck has a sleeper-berth.
- Amending the existing ruling requiring a 30-minute break after eight hours of unbroken driving.
FMCSA’s primary concern is always to keep roads safe for drivers and the motoring public. However, they understand the difficulties truck drivers encounter while operating their vehicles. After reviewing the data from ELDs, the DOT agency is proposing changes to keep pace with modern challenges, expectations, and business requirements without increasing risk.
Since releasing their advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR), FMCSA received over 5000 comments. Most of the comments focused on known pain-points for truck drivers, underscoring just how challenging existing HOS regulations are for drivers.
Interstate Motor Carriers is intimately familiar with the challenges both fleets and independent operators encounter when trying to remain compliant with HOS regulations while running a successful business. Contact us today to learn more about our innovative solutions designed to help reduce your transportation risk without adding undue stress to drivers.
Posted on May 08, 2019
Every owner operator knows tailgating is a bad idea and can increase the risk of accidents, injuries, and fatalities. However, many truck drivers fail to allow themselves the appropriate following distance based on their vehicle, road conditions and weather conditions. Check out the five following facts about safe following distances that truck drivers should familiarize themselves with to improve trucking safety.
- Avoiding tailgating isn’t the same thing as a safe driving distance. The general rule of thumb is that for every 10 mph the commercial vehicle travels, the driver needs to add their truck’s length in following distance. For example, truck drivers traveling 50 mph will need to leave five of their trucks’ lengths between them and the vehicle in front of them. However, factors such as the tire quality, breaks and terrain can affect this ratio.
- Outside factors affect safe driving distance. As mentioned above, other elements influence safe stopping distance. Truck driver speed, the weather, vehicle condition, construction, traffic and road obstacles all influence how much space drivers need for a safe stop. Adverse weather, aging equipment, and increased congestion all warrant a greater following distance.
- Hill speed can cause accidental tailgating. Some drivers try to max their speed while going downhill to reduce the speed loss they’ll experience going uphill. However, this can lead to surprises when the driver discovers a passenger vehicle much closer than anticipated when they crest a hill. This excess speed can force drivers into an unwanted tailgating situation.
- It’s harder to maintain a safe following distance than many drivers realize. It’s fairly easy to sustain safe following distances on open roads. However, in metropolitan areas or well-traveled highways, things get trickier. Drivers should pick a lane and stick with it to allow passenger vehicles to maneuver around the commercial vehicle. Yet this is often insufficient in many busy areas, requiring truck drivers to maintain slower than normal speeds to create the necessary distance for maximum safety.
- Insufficient following distance can lead to jackknifing. Sudden braking can lead to a jackknife scenario where the weight of the trailer adversely impacts the tractor. Jackknifing is one of the most dangerous situations for truck drivers.
Owner operators must maintain constant vigilance to ensure safe following distances. Passenger vehicles are often unaware how much space trucks need to operate safely on the road. Allowing these drivers to pass without impacting following distance is a challenge that truck drivers need to overcome to ensure the safety of themselves and their vehicles. Learn more about reducing risk and improving owner operator truck safety, contact the experts at Interstate Motor Carriers.
Posted on March 13, 2019
The e-commerce boom has dramatically impacted the trucking industry. Gone are the days where drivers could wait several days, or even a week to fill their trucks before hitting the road. As e-commerce industry giants continue to increase customer expectations, trucking businesses need to find ways to make fast deliveries without increasing shipping costs.
Managing Shipping Expectations
One of the greatest challenges created by the e-commerce boom is balancing shipping expenses with consumer expectations. With 55% of customers preferring same-day delivery and 44% expecting next-day delivery, truck drivers are going to be hard-pressed to keep up without increasing shipping charges.
Consumers don’t want to pay extra shipping fees, and in many cases expect free shipping. With more companies offering free shipping on minimum orders, the solution to the added expense will likely fall on the retailer rather than the consumer. As a result, packaging is expected to undergo significant changes. Smaller, lighter, leaner packages are likely to replace less streamlined options currently in place.
Challenges for Fleets
As more brick and mortar stores close, as the result of more efficient online competition, truck drivers are in higher demand than ever. Compounding this issue is the ever-growing truck driver shortage. While this is a challenge for fleets that make their living with long hauls, it spells opportunity for local and regional operators. It is often more efficient for independent operators, and smaller regional fleets to make the short-haul and last mile deliveries than it is for large fleets. Amazon Logistics offers an example of the new opportunities available to owner operators and trucking entrepreneurs. Their website offers an “opportunity to build and grow a successful package delivery business,” with low startup costs, technology assistance, and an existing customer base. Today, savvy owner-operators can identify a wider variety of local and regional shipments that don’t require travel outside of their state boundaries.
Shifting industry dynamics also results in a changing risk landscape. Fleets that make long hauls have different concerns than owner-operators that work within a 250-mile radius. Whether your transportation business comprises a fleet of vehicles or is an independent operation, Interstate Motor Carriers can help. Contact us to learn more about our innovative solutions to reduce transportation risk.
Posted on January 25, 2019
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has resulted in significant changes to tax law not seen since the Reform Act of 1986. With modifications made to multiple tax codes, trucking companies need to be ready to address the changes. The following are some of the most significant alterations trucking businesses need to prepare for:
- Depreciation and equipment deals. Prior to the new tax law, businesses could only take advantage of bonus depreciation for new equipment. Now, lawmakers expanded this coverage to used equipment as well. In addition, trucking companies will be able to write off 100% of the cost of depreciation under the new rules. This write-off will decrease by 20% starting in 2023 before closing out entirely by the close of 2026.
- Updates to per diem rates. The IRS issued increases to special per diem rates effective through September 30, 2019. They increased per diem rates for travel within the continental United States from $63 to $66 and travel outside of the continent from $68 to $71. Another significant change is employee drivers can no longer take the per diem deduction. Considering the driver shortage and retention challenges, this is a benefit trucking companies should consider carefully.
- Changes to tax rates. One of the primary objects of the tax reform was to encourage competition by reducing the corporate tax rate. C corporations now enjoy a tax rate of 21%, a significant decrease from the previous 35%. S corporations saw a 20% deduction for domestic business income that meets certain qualifications.
These tax changes will affect planning and budgeting for trucking companies in 2019 and beyond. Fleets need to develop long-term strategies to address these changes or they run the risk of missing out on potential tax savings. As always, we recommend you speak to your accountant and tax advisor to make sure these changes are applicable to you and your trucking operation. To learn more about risk management strategies and innovative truck insurance solutions, contact Interstate Motor Carriers today.
Posted on December 27, 2018
Maintaining a healthy diet and fitness routine is difficult for anyone, but truck drivers have a few additional challenges. However, overlooking poor food choices will catch up quickly in pounds, health problems, and even issues at work.
Eating healthy while on the road is a challenge every trucker needs to overcome. Adhering to the following tips can help simplify this issue:
- Eat less food at more frequent intervals. Eating big, heavy meals may feel satisfying for the moment, but it can cause problems for drivers later. Large meals weigh drivers down and make them drowsy, increasing safety risk. Eating more meals throughout the day with smaller portions can improve drivers’ metabolisms and help keep them alert.
- Ditch the sugary drinks. Many people think their food choices are causing their weight gain, but beverages can pack on the pounds as well. Sugary sodas, sweet tea, energy drinks, and even coffee can all rack up calories throughout the day. Truck drivers should try to make water their primary hydration source. If the lack of taste is an issue, drivers can try squeezing in a bit of lemon to add some flavor.
- Bring healthy snacks on the road. Packing ahead of time can help truck drivers avoid making poor food choices due to hunger. If drivers keep hummus, peanut butter, and a mix of fruits and vegetables with them, they can satisfy hunger cravings with healthy options instead of greasy, fried ones. Keeping a stock of nonperishable snacks such as granola bars, nuts, and trail mix can help as well.
- Plan routes with food in mind. While drivers have set routes, they can plan where they intend to stop to eat. If drivers wait until the last minute to look for food options, they may find themselves surrounded by fast food and not much else. However, if they take the time to identify delis or grocery stores on their route, they can find a healthy meal option.
Finding a routine that works best for maintaining a healthy lifestyle may involve a bit of trial and error for truck drivers. However, even if fast food is their only option, some restaurant chains offer healthy menu items. Check out our list of healthy fast food choices to learn more about staying safe and healthy while on the road. Contact Interstate Motor Carriers to learn more.
Posted on December 18, 2018
Truck drivers spend so much time on the road that it can be difficult to find an opportunity to go to the gym. While some gyms are open 24 hours, there is a limited number available and they may not be convenient on any given route. Many truck drivers don’t want to pay for a gym membership when they can’t use it regularly. This results in truck drivers neglecting their health and fitness.
However, truck drivers can perform many exercises without equipment or a gym. Research shows that regular exercise improves truck drivers’ physical health and mental health. To keep their minds and bodies in top condition, truck drivers can perform the following eight exercises almost anywhere and at any time:
- Dips. Dips are great to tone triceps, delts, and pecs. Trucker drivers can use a chair, tire, bumper, step or even perform this exercise directly on the ground.
- Lunges. This foundational bodyweight strength exercise is great for developing leg muscles. The lunge is suitable for beginners and can be used with additional weight to increase intensity. If truckers keep a set of dumbbells in their rig, they can get even more out of their lunge routine.
- Planks. This core exercise also works drivers’ arms, backs, and legs as well. It’s a great exercise to target a lot of muscles on the body. Much like push-ups, so long as drivers have room to extend their legs and brace their hands shoulder width apart, they can perform this exercise.
- Push-ups. Individuals can scale this exercise to meet their fitness level. So long as there is room for drivers to extend their legs back and space their hands shoulder width apart, they can perform the standard form of this exercise. Drivers just getting started on their physical fitness journey can perform push-ups from their knees or by leaning against a wall. Drivers can pass the time waiting on a load by doing a few sets of push-ups.
- Sit-ups/crunches. Drivers can perform these exercises straight from their sleeper. This makes it an ideal exercise to start the day. Waking up ten minutes earlier than usual to knock out a few sets of sit-ups can improve drivers’ abdominal strength and overall health. Drivers can even incorporate abdominal squeezes while they’re stopped at red lights or for the duration of certain songs on the radio.
- Squats. The squat is a lower body strengthening exercise that truckers can perform almost anywhere. It’s a highly functional exercise movement working major muscles of the hips and legs. To execute a superman, simultaneously raise your arms, legs, and chest off of the floor, then hold this contraction for 2 seconds. Drivers should remember to exhale during this movement.
- Superman. It may take truckers a while before they feel like superman, but they will definitely get in better shape if they add the superman exercise to their workout. The superman is a bodyweight movement that targets the posterior core and lower back muscles.
- Walking. Don’t underestimate the benefit of walking. Many truck stops include walking trails for this exact reason. However, in lieu of walking trails, truck drivers should try to increase the number of steps they take in any given day by parking in the farthest spot from their destination, and using stairs instead of elevators whenever possible.
Keeping truck drivers healthy has long-reaching effects. Healthy truck drivers are less prone to illness, which allows fleets to operate at optimum levels. Contact the experts at Interstate Motor Carriers to learn how we can help your trucking company.
Posted on November 21, 2018
Most people associate work-related back pain with jobs that require a lot of bending or heavy lifting. However, prolonged sitting can also be the source of back pain, something which many truck drivers know all too well. Truck drivers are often seated for hours on end, in a position that readily puts strain on back muscles and ligaments. If the issue remains unaddressed, this pain can spread into their necks and even their legs.
Preventing Back Pain
The best method of dealing with drivers’ back pain is to prevent it altogether. There are several methods to help keep drivers’ backs in better condition, to help mitigate the onset of back and neck pain:
- Exercise whenever possible. When drivers reach a rest stop or stop driving for the day, they should work out and stretch to reinvigorate muscles after a long period of disuse. Stretching is particularly important to help relieve tense muscles after sitting in one position for several hours.
- Invest in seat support. Truck drivers have many expenses and often try to keep costs down by limiting luxury purchases for their cab. However, ergonomic seat cushions are well worth the price tag. They provide support and correct drivers’ posture to prevent the pain associated with slouching into the seat.
- Focus on posture. While it’s not feasible to think about good posture every second of a long drive, there are some things drivers can do to prevent back pain, by changing some basic driving behavior. For example, many drivers carry their phones or wallets in their back pocket. Removing these before sitting down can improve posture and reduce muscle strain. And changing seat position, moving the height or angle of the seat, each and every hour, can reduce both muscle fatigue and mental fatigue.
Managing Back Pain
Once drivers strain their muscles, they should rapidly take steps to manage the pain before it becomes an injury. Some tips include:
- Ice the area. Applying an ice pack to sore muscles for around 20 minutes can help numb the pain, reduce the damage, and decrease swelling.
- Alternate cold with heat therapy. So long as the area is no longer numb and the swelling is gone, drivers can also use heat as a means to manage back pain. Heat can relieve pain and spasms as well as help warm up muscles before stretching.
- Take breaks. Pushing through pain is rarely worth it. Drivers who ignore their back pain in favor of reaching their destination faster risk increasing the pain and causing lasting damage.
When drivers take steps to prevent and manage back pain, they reduce the likelihood of an injury. Left unchecked, drivers could experience lasting health complications that keep them out of work. To learn more ways to reduce and manage trucking risk, contact the experts at Interstate Motor Carriers.
Posted on November 07, 2018
There is some confusion among motor carriers regarding commercial vehicle rentals. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) exempts short-term rentals from needing to use Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) due to the duration of usage. Drivers who fall under this exemption may continue to use paper records of duty status (RODS) in lieu of an ELD; however, there are some limitations.
Updates to the TRALA Exemption
Some motor carriers are under the impression that the exemption applies to rentals for up to 30 days. This is incorrect. In March of this year, the 30-day exemption for short-term rentals expired. While the Truck Rental And Leasing Association (TRALA) petitioned FMSCA to extend the 30-day exemption through the end of 2018, FMCSA denied the request and an 8-day exemption went into effect.
Terms and Conditions of the Exemption
FMCSA provides some basic guidelines for commercial motor vehicle (CMV) rentals.
- The exemption applies to CMV rentals for eight days or less. Attempts to release the same CMV after eight days is a violation of the exemption.
- Rental drivers need a copy of the exemption letter while operating the CMV.
- Drivers must carry a copy of their rental agreement clearly stating who is renting the vehicle and the dates of the rental.
- Drivers must keep copies of their RODS for the current day and any preceding days during the applicable eight-day period.
- All other FMCSA regulations apply during the rental.
Another provision of the rental exemption is the carrier renting the CMVs must report any accident to FMCSA within five business days. When notifying FMCSA of the incident, motor carriers need to provide the following information:
- Provide the exemption explanation (TRALA)
- Date of the accident
- Location of the accident
- Name and license number of the driver and co-driver
- Number and state license number for the vehicle
- Number of people injured
- Number of fatalities
- The cause of the accident as reported by the police
- Any citations issued to the driver
- Total time the driver spent operating the vehicle as well as their on-duty time leading up to the accident
Carriers need to submit this information via email to MCPSD@dot.gov. Failing to comply with the above provisions can lead to FMCSA revoking exemption privileges. To learn more about this exemption, other safety provisions, and truck insurance solutions, contact the experts at Interstate Motor Carriers.