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 April 03, 2019
Every year, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) holds an International Roadcheck event to inspect common areas of safety violations in trucking. This year, the event will run from June 4-6 and will focus on steering and suspension. These two components are critical to the safe operation of a commercial vehicle as they help ensure a truck can support heavy loads while maintaining stability while driving.
What to Expect During an Inspection
During International Roadchecks, CVSA sends certified inspectors to perform a Level I Inspection (North American Standard), although he or she may opt to conduct a different type of inspection depending on his or her initial evaluation. A Level I Inspection is the most common type of inspection and drivers should be prepared to provide several documents including:
- Their commercial driver’s license (CDL)
- Their medical certification and card/waiver if appropriate
- Their logs for the previous eight on-duty days to confirm their hours of service (HOS)
The inspection includes 37 steps and takes around 45 minutes to an hour to complete. In addition to the above documents, the inspector will check for drugs or alcohol as well as inspect several aspects of the vehicle such as the seat belts, exhaust system, brake system, various lights, and more.
Is an International Roadcheck Different from Standard Inspections?
While drivers may feel some trepidation going into a CVSA inspection, it is no different from the usual inspections they experience at any other time of the year. The only notable difference is that CVSA will issue an official decal for display upon completing a successful inspection. While there will be more inspections than usual, the inspections themselves are the same as always.
The intent of highlighting steering and suspension safety is to increase drivers’ awareness of those critical elements of operating a truck. CVSA announces the dates of the increased inspections to allow drivers to ensure they’re safe and compliant well in advance. It’s also to remind drivers that maximum safety is something they should strive for year-round.
Contact the experts at Interstate Motor Carriers to learn more about our innovative truck insurance solutions.
Posted on February 21, 2019
The driver shortage is a problem for all trucking companies. As many drivers gear up for retirement, fleets need to fill their driver seats with new truckers. Unfortunately, recruiting millennials has been something of a challenge for many fleets. If trucking companies want to attract this demographic, they’re going to have to make some changes to increase their appeal.
- Simplify the application process. Many companies now offer online applications that are easy to fill out and understand. Millennials work with and use technology on a daily basis. If a trucking company’s application process can’t keep up with modern technology standards, millennials aren’t going to bother applying.
- Be more social. Millennials spend a significant portion of their day on social media. They use it to keep in touch as well as look for jobs (62%). Truckers themselves report using social media platforms daily (75%) so the opportunity for crossover is huge. Posting about job openings on social media and encouraging existing employees to share the post can help spread awareness and increase millennial interest.
- Emphasize work-life balance. Millennials are the first generation that is willing to take a cut in pay in order to be happy while working than to make more money but be miserable while doing it. Trucking companies will need to underscore aspects of the job that appeals to younger applicants such as flexible hours, the opportunity to travel and see new places, and time with family.
- Push high-tech systems. The existing pool of truck drivers may grumble about learning new technology, but millennials prefer it to antiquated systems. Trucking companies need to emphasize that driving a truck is much more than sitting behind a wheel. Highlighting apps, software, and other high-tech advancements can pique younger generations’ interest.
- Cultivate an irresistible company culture. Applicants want their potential employers to see them as more than just another resume. Millennials will overlook a smaller salary in favor of benefits and perks like mentoring programs, appreciation events, and employee outings.
Trucking companies need to address all the challenges and risks facing their operation. To learn more about managing recruitment challenges and trucking risk, contact the experts at Interstate Motor Carriers.
Posted on February 07, 2019
Although native to China, India, and Vietnam, the spotted lanternfly has invaded eastern Pennsylvania and southwestern New Jersey. In their indigenous countries, natural predators keep the spotted lanternfly population in check. However, such predators don’t exist in PA or NJ. Because of this, in combination with their voracious eating habits, both states have labeled the spotted lanternfly an invasive species.
What This Means for Trucking Companies
While insect populations may not seem like a significant concern to fleets, this is not the case for trucking companies that do business in PA, NJ, and parts of VA. Several counties issued quarantines, which require truckers to undergo spotted lanternfly training. Once drivers complete the training, they receive a permit allowing them to travel for work in and out of the affected areas.
The following is a list of quarantined counties:
Pennsylvania: Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Chester, Delaware, Lancaster,
Lebanon, Lehigh, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia, Schuylkill
New Jersey: Hunterdon,
How to Receive a Permit
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) offers the training for management for free, and it takes about two hours to complete. The Train the Trainer course educates the business owner, manager, or supervisor on how to conduct training for relevant staff. They can then teach their drivers the rules required for the quarantine in affected counties.
Who Needs a Permit?
With the numerous regulations truck drivers have to juggle already, many trucking companies may be wondering if they have to add spotted lanternfly training to their list of responsibilities. While PDA provided a very in-depth explanation for this question, the simple answer is any business that moves vehicles, equipment, or goods in or out of the quarantine zones needs a permit.
PDA also encourages anyone traveling through the affected areas to learn how to identify this pest to avoid spreading it elsewhere. To learn more about rules and regulations affecting the trucking industry, contact the experts at Interstate Motor Carriers.
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 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.
Posted on October 10, 2018
Uber launched its innovative trucking app “Uber Freight” a little over a year ago with the intention of revolutionizing how truck drivers perform their jobs. The app works much like standard Uber services. However, instead of pairing a rider with a driver, the app pairs a truck driver looking for a job with nearby freight. Truck drivers can plan these jobs weeks in advance or the day of if they so desire.
Why is Uber Freight Good for Owner Operators?
One of the key differences for truck drivers booking a load with Uber Freight versus on their own is that they don’t have to negotiate the fare with shippers. Uber Freight predetermines and guarantees prices before the shipment begins. Once the driver delivers the freight, the app starts the reimbursement process and guarantees payment within seven days.
How Does Uber Freight Calculate Prices?
Uber Freight takes a number of factors into consideration when developing a delivery price. These include:
- Distance. This is one of the biggest elements in determining a price for a delivery.
- Cargo type. Some cargo is more valuable or sensitive and thus nets a higher rate.
- Location. Certain areas generate higher prices much like any other service.
- Surge pricing. Uber Freight understands supply and demand and adjusts prices to reflect the marketplace.
How Does the App Work?
Traditional Uber services don’t give the rider many options when it comes to their driver. However, Uber Freight offers Owner Operators many options to secure the best load for their rig. Drivers can swipe through a variety of available jobs rather than the app pairing them with one like Uber does for traditional riders. The app also recognizes the need for fine-tuning and allows drivers to sort by date, time, and location.
Uber Freight Perks Program
Uber Freight developed a reward program called Uber Freight Plus for drivers that frequent app users. The app offers different discounts based upon frequency such as:
- Uber Freight Plus fuel card. So long as drivers book one load per month, the app saves them 20 cents per gallon at TA/Petro truck stops and 15 cents per gallon in participating Roady’s gas stations in California, Texas, and Illinois. These individuals can also save up to 30% on Goodyear tires.
- Savings on truck purchases. Once an individual hits 10 loads per month, they can save up to $16,000 at Navistar on new trucks or earn a $4000 rebate for used trucks from participating brands. Navistar also offers 20-50% off the cost of parts and vehicle maintenance.
- Other perks and benefits. There are several bonuses for drivers who use the Uber Freight Plus app such as discounts on phone plans with Sprint.
The app also learns driver preferences over time much like Pandora creates unique stations for its users. The app pays attention to the driver’s preferences, such as where they prefer to travel, and makes recommendations on available jobs. Drivers can also list their availability to help companies match with them.
Uber Freight can be a major benefit to independent operators and small fleets. Harnessing the power of innovative trucking technology can help truck drivers decrease the amount of time they spend looking for jobs and improve their overall bottom line. To learn more about enhancing and protecting your trucking operation, contact the experts at Interstate Motor Carriers.
Posted on August 07, 2018
Many within the transportation industry scoffed at the notion of autonomous vehicles, and they weren’t alone. The idea of self-driving vehicles seemed like science fiction at best and dangerous at worst, yet the technology is here and already in use. Budweiser shipped over 50,000 cans of beer in a self-driving truck, and Uber, Waymo, Tesla and Embark are all running live pilots with autonomous trucks. While the technology isn’t 100% ready for the public at large, it’s rapidly becoming a reality. High tech tools and futuristic technology are dominating recent transportation publication headlines with solutions like these, which are all available today:
Telematics and GPS Fleet Tracking Systems
Simply said, telematics encompasses the software and devices that power the electronic features found in all vehicles including trucks. GPS is one of the key applications in telematics, and includes:
- Navigation, fuel monitoring and route planning
- Driver behavior applications including braking, fast acceleration and speeding
- Complex route planning and arrival/departure alerts
- Automated tracking and analytics productivity reports
- Trailer tracking and historical routing
- Idle and start/stop driving reports
ELDs and Trucking Software Applications
ELDs provide the wireless tools and technology to ensure that truckers and fleets maintain compliance with the FMCSA ELD mandate.
Self-driving Trucks and Platooning
As mentioned previously, self-driving truck testing is well underway. Platooning is also being tested by manufacturers including Daimler. Platooning extends self-driving technology by wirelessly tethering trucks together, allowing them to operate in a tighter highway formation (convoy) than would be possible with human drivers at the wheel.
Tesla is the big name when it comes to electric vehicles, and Tesla Semi, the automaker’s electric truck division has been accumulating many reservations over the last few months. Tesla is expected to produce all electric trucks in 2019. But they aren’t alone, as many major manufacturers are actively working on completely electric trucks. Volvo has announced two new fully-electric trucks designed to take the place of urban delivery and refuse collection vehicles. Both will be available in the European market in 2019.
What to Expect in the Coming Years
As if the list above insufficiently represents the dramatic changes happening in the trucking industry, there are some seemingly imminent and impressive technologies expected to impact truckers and fleets in the near future. These include:
Heads up displays (HUDs) are nothing new for vehicles, but augmented reality is about to take them to the next level. BMW is working on a HUD that can superimpose real-life objects from the road onto a truck’s HUD to allow drivers to navigate obstacles with greater ease.
Trucks require ongoing maintenance and recalibration to perform at their optimum level. However, new technology will allow software to make these calibrations without ever pulling into a repair shop.
Trucking companies need to prepare for these dramatic changes, and Interstate Motor Carriers can help. Contact us to learn how we can help protect you today and in the future.
Posted on July 23, 2018
With the commercial driver shortage already affecting the industry, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has been making big changes to try to stabilize the situation. Part of their plan includes a pilot program allowing 18 to 21-year-olds with prior relevant military experience to operate commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) in interstate commerce. The program is also targeting civilians 18-20 with licenses to operate CMVs in intrastate commerce and 21 to 24-year-olds already licensed for interstate commerce. This final demographic will serve as the control group to compare stats and scores for safety and general operations.
What Are the Program Requirements?
Around 50 carriers will participate in the pilot program of 600 drivers—200 for each designated group of drivers. FMCSA estimates they will need an additional 20 carriers and 300 drivers to account for turnover rates. In addition, the US DOT agency is giving preference to carriers that can provide an even number of drivers for each group. FMCSA is also taking significant measures to ensure the safety of all participating drivers as well as the motoring public.
The qualification requirements include:
- Carrier contact info and demographic stats
- Retain drivers’ background info form and consent form
- Responsible for training drivers on the FMCSRs and maintaining compliance
- Cannot be a moderate or high-risk carrier
- Cannot have conditional or unsatisfactory safety ratings
- Cannot have any open or closed enforcement actions in the preceding six years.
- Cannot be above the national average for vehicle and driver out-of-service (OOS) rates or crash rates
Additional provisions apply once participating in the program. These include:
- Provide monthly data reports on driver activity, safety results, and other supporting details
- Inform FMCSA within five days if a driver leaves a participating carrier
- Inform FMCSA within one day of any injury or fatality, alcohol incident, or if a driver leaves the program altogether
Much like the carriers, participating drivers also have requirements. FMCSA disqualifies drivers if they:
- Had more than one license
- Had a canceled, disqualified, revoked, or suspended license
- Had a traffic violation other than a parking ticket per military, state, or local laws
- Had a conviction for any of a variety of motor vehicle violations (i.e. DUI, BAL greater than or equal to 0.4 while operating a CMV, fled the scene of a crash, reckless driving, etc.).
Understanding the Driver Shortage
By the end of 2016, the driver shortage stood at 36,500. The American Trucking Association (ATA) thinks that number will exceed 175,000 by 2024 due to a variety of factors including demographics, regulations, lack of work-life balance, and an aging workforce. This final element, driver retirement, will account for almost half of the demand for new drivers. The economy is already feeling the effects of the shortage, as the cost for deliveries increased and delivery times lengthened. The driver shortage problem isn’t just a matter of filling a labor gap. Retention is a significant element of ensuring the survival and success of a fleet.
To learn more about improving your trucking business and coverages, contact the experts at Interstate Motor Carriers. We will help implement innovative solutions to meet your retention and risk management needs.
Posted on September 06, 2017
Cyber Security for Your Small Business
High-profile cyber attacks on companies such as Sony, Target and Zappos have generated national headlines and have raised awareness of the growing threat of cyber crime. Recent surveys conducted by the Small Business Authority, Symantec and the National Cybersecurity Alliance suggest that many small business owners are still operating under a false sense of cyber security.
The statistics are grim; the vast majority of U.S. small businesses lack a formal Internet security policy for employees, and only about half have even rudimentary cyber-security measures in place. Furthermore, only about a quarter of small business owners have had an outside party test their computer systems to ensure they are hacker-resistant, and nearly 40 percent do not have their data backed up in more than one location.
Shockingly, despite these significant cyber-security exposures, 85 percent of small business owners believe their company is safe from hackers, viruses, malware or a data breach. This is largely due to the widespread, albeit mistaken, belief that small businesses are unlikely targets for cyber attacks. In reality, data thieves are simply looking for the path of least resistance. As more and more large companies get serious about data security, small businesses are becoming increasingly attractive targets—and the results are often devastating for small business owners.
In recent years, nearly 60 percent of the small businesses victimized by a cyber attack closed permanently within six months. Many of these businesses put off making necessary improvements to their cyber-security protocols until it was too late because they feared the costs would be prohibitive. Don’t make the same mistake. Even if you don’t currently have the resources to bring in an outside expert to test your computer systems and make security recommendations, there are simple, economical steps you can take to reduce your risk of falling victim to a costly cyber attack. The following list of easily implementable security procedures was developed during a Federal Communications Commission roundtable on effective cyber-security strategies for small business owners and is a great place to start:
- Train employees in cyber-security principles.
- Install, use and regularly update antivirus and antispyware software on every computer used in your business.
- Use a firewall for your Internet connection.
- Download and install software updates for your operating systems and applications as they become available
- Make backup copies of important business data and information.
- Control physical access to your computers and network components.
- Secure your Wi-Fi networks. If you have a Wi-Fi network for your workplace make sure it is secure and hidden.
- Require individual user accounts for each employee.
- Limit employee access to data and information, and limit authority to install software.
- Regularly change passwords.
Cyber security is a serious concern for all businesses—large and small. Contact Interstate Motor Carriers/Capacity Agency, LLC. to learn how our risk management resources and insurance solutions can help protect your business from cyber attacks.