Posted on June 05, 2019
Though many fleets reported that 2018 was a stellar year for business, there were however, continued operational challenges. And many industry experts report that these challenges are having a greater impact on smaller fleets, than on larger carriers. While many smaller fleets enjoyed significant expansion in 2018, increasing insurance costs, maintenance costs, and fuel costs are creating challenges which may slow their future growth. In addition to increasing costs, there are several other hurdles impacting their efforts to expand.
Here are four additional challenges small fleets face:
- Recruiting drivers
- Retaining drivers
- Ensuring compliance and keeping up with government regulations
- Competitors charging unsustainable rates
Small fleets struggle more than their larger counter parts in dealing with recruitment and retention. Many large carriers opted to increase drivers’ pay as an incentive to recruit and retain both drivers and other employees. However, they were able to do so by shifting contract terms, while many smaller fleets are unable to do so.
New disruptive competitors in the trucking industry are also creating headaches for smaller fleets. Some of these offer cutthroat rates that established fleets can’t maintain. While it’s not a sustainable business model for these disrupters, it allows them to poach customers and force down prices across the industry until they can establish a market presence. Simply said, they are buying market share. Smaller fleets either risk losing their customers or must lower prices to retain them.
Shifting government regulations are especially challenging for smaller fleets as they lack the resources to stay on top of regulation and compliance related changes. Hours of service regulations, and safety inspection requirements must be reviewed by fleet management and then effectively conveyed to the drivers. This is no simple task for a busy and growing small fleet.
Small fleet owners and managers can reach out to the trucking experts at Interstate Motor Carriers. Our team works diligently to service our trucking clients every day to help them manage risk, reduce losses, and solve their most challenging problems. Contact us to learn more.
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 10, 2019
Trucking companies have a significant amount of data to work with when it comes to making improvements. Telematics provides insights on improving driver safety, preventative maintenance, and more. Fleets can also research the competition to see how they operate their companies. While other trucking businesses can provide benchmarks for fleets, looking to different industries can offer new insights for improvement.
What Motivates Clients?
At the end of the day, businesses need trucking companies to transport their goods, products, or cargo. However, several aspects can influence them to choose one company over another. When taking an introspective approach, trucking businesses have a tendency to tout their superior safety ratings. These are, of course, important. However, it overlooks one very significant element that any lateral (and many unrelated) industries know well already: customers don’t just want a product; they also what a relationship.
Building Lasting Relationships with Clients
When people think of exceptional customer service, the trucking industry isn’t usually the first to spring to mind. It may not even make the top ten. To address this, trucking companies need to look to businesses that cultivate successful relationships with their customers. For bigger brands, it’s a simple matter to look up their business model online and make relevant changes. There is plenty of information about well run companies like Apple, Amazon and Microsoft available for fleets to review and assimilate.
However, smaller companies often crack the code on stellar customer service faster. Company leadership can reach out to small business owners and ask for an informal meeting. This can be as simple as getting a cup of coffee or lunch. This creates the opportunity to ask questions about how they surpass customer expectations and gain repeat customers while continuing to grow.
Translating External Experiences to the Trucking Industry
Some industries are too disparate from trucking to have many lessons that will carry over with ease. However, taking an inward approach will yield stale ideas and stagnating service. Interstate Motor Carriers knows that providing a service is only half the equation to running a successful transportation company. We work with trucking companies every day to manage their risks, reduce losses, and solve challenging problems with innovative solutions. Contact us to learn how we can help your trucking business.
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 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 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 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 January 14, 2019
Fuel represents one of the leading costs for operating a fleet. While there are several ways fleets can tackle the issue, some are more effective than others. Fleets that want to make meaningful reductions to their fuel expenses should consider the following:
- Reduce out of route (OOR) miles. Truckers often end up driving miles they didn’t need to due to inefficient delivery schedules. Optimizing routes can save thousands of dollars and reduce the amount of time drivers are on the roads, and away from their families.
- Fuel Use and Theft. The cost of fuel theft and unauthorized purchases can take a toll on a trucking company’s bottom line. Fuel efficiency modules can help monitor fuel consumption, fuel economy, and more to flag any abnormalities. Monitoring fuel cards can help combat this issue as well as fleets can identify when drivers used their cards without the vehicle being present.
- Watch the speed. Speeding takes its toll at the gas pump. Increasing highway cruising speed from 55 mph to 75 mph can raise fuel consumption as much as 20%. Truckers can improve gas mileage between 10 – 15% by driving at 55 mph instead of 65 mph. While that may not seem like much for one driver, multiply that cost differential by the total number of drivers in a fleet and the gallons used over the course of a year, and it adds up quickly. Incentivize truck drivers to keep their speed in check.
- Address idle times. If a truck’s engine is running, it’s consuming fuel. Fleet management solutions can help trucking companies identify when excessive idling occurs. Some of the most common sources of idling include letting the engine warm up for too long, leaving the engine running during deliveries, and turning on the engine to operate the radio or other equipment. Encouraging drivers to limit their idle times while rewarding those who do so can help reduce this problem.
- Perform better maintenance. Companies sometimes delay preventative maintenance because the schedule causes disruption to their workflow. However, staying on top of maintenance, and making sure drivers check tire pressure regularly, allows vehicles to remain in top condition and consume less fuel. For every 10 percent that tires are underinflated, there is a 1 percent reduction in fuel economy. For fleets, that number really adds up over the course of a year.
Managing fuel costs will help fleets maximize profitability. Interstate Motor Carriers is committed to helping fleets solve challenging problems while reducing losses and keeping risk in check. To learn more about how we can help your trucking company, contact us 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.