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 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 April 23, 2019
With Distracted Driving Month in full swing, fleets should use the month of April to identify and rectify common sources of distraction while behind the wheel. The leading and most obvious distraction is technology. Technology has made it easier than ever to stay connected with friends and family. Unfortunately, it has also led to a massive upswing in traffic accidents, injuries, and fatalities. With easy access to cellphones, the temptation to text or talk while driving is undeniable.
Many drivers think it’s acceptable to glance at a text if they don’t reply to the text. Their logic is that it only takes a few seconds to read a text, which they perceive can be done quickly and safely. However, when traveling at highway speeds, a few seconds can translate to a lot of distance traveled without their eyes on the road. Trucks traveling at 65 miles per hour will cover 285 feet in three seconds, that is almost an entire football field with drivers not looking at the road. A lot can happen in that distance!
A simple first step fleets can take it to prohibit drivers from using cellphones for texting or talking altogether while driving, including hands-free. Just because drivers aren’t using their hands to hold the phone and talk doesn’t mean the call isn’t diverting their attention. Having the distraction present increases drivers’ risk. The following are several other steps drivers can take to improve safety:
- Pull over if they need to take or place a call
- If pulling over isn’t possible, allow calls to go to voicemail or have a passenger answer if there is one present
- Identify and refrain from other distractions behind the wheel including eating, drinking, or using on-board telematics devices that aren’t vital to operating the truck
- Learn how to recognize the signs of other distracted drivers (i.e. weaving in and out of lanes, visibly on the phone or texting, food or beverage in hand, reacting too slow to traffic changes, etc.)
- Practice defensive driving to remain aware of all potential hazards that could lead to an accident
Improving drivers’ attention isn’t just a safety concern. In addition to human lives, distraction-related accidents cost fleets a significant amount of money. The fines alone can add up to $11,000 for distracted commercial drivers involved in an accident.
Fleet managers need to take precautions to ensure they aren’t pressuring drivers to operate their vehicle while distracted (i.e. conducting business while behind the wheel) and fully investigate all crashes to identify if they were related to driver distraction.
Pinpointing sources of distraction is a vital part of managing risk. However, it can be difficult to know where to start or how to implement change. Contact the experts at Interstate Motor Carrier to learn more about improving transportation safety within your fleet.
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 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.