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.
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.
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.
Posted on October 22, 2018
Truck drivers and fleets are aware of the importance of CSA scores. While FMCSA can’t suspend a CDL license due to CSA scores, they can target drivers for interventions and levy heavy fines against them. This is why it’s critical for both owner-operators and company drivers to keep their CSA scores low. Drivers can follow these 5 steps to improve their CSA scores.
- Harness the power of electronic logging devices (ELDs). One of the most common violations roadside inspectors see are “form and manner” violations. These types of violations include outdated logs, hence the usefulness of an ELD. While FMCSA regulations required all motor carriers to upgrade their vehicles to include an ELD in December of 2017, some can continue to use an automatic on-board recording device (AOBRD) through 2019. While the technology has a temporary grandfather clause, it’s worth the peace of mind to make the change to an ELD.
- Focus on the brakes. With Brake Safety Week in the recent past, many carriers are feeling the sting of brake violations. Given the importance of braking for truck safety, it’s surprising how often drivers overlook them during pre-trip inspections. While checking brakes is harder and messier than other aspects of pre-trip inspections, brake violations add up quickly.
- Perform thorough pre-trip inspections. Brakes aren’t the only element that drivers need to inspect before hitting the road. In addition to problems with brakes, the most common violations relate to lights and tires. A broken light alone carries a 6-point penalty. Problems with tires carry an 8-point penalty. Several light and tire violations can rack up CSA points and hurt a carrier’s safety rating in one roadside inspection alone. Performing a complete pre-trip inspection can help drivers and carriers avoid these hefty penalties.
- Challenge violations. Fleets and drivers aren’t without recourse following a violation. They have two years to challenge the violation, which can result in a smaller penalty or a dismissal of the charge. Even if the charge isn’t dismissed, reducing the severity means reducing the point value assigned to it. It’s always worth the effort to challenge violations.
- Drive healthy. Failing to produce a valid medical certificate carries a relatively small fine of one point. However, driving while ill is one of the most serious violations and carries a 10-point penalty. Fleet managers need to make sure drivers have valid and up to date medical cards certifying their health and fitness to drive as well as monitor any health concerns.
Implementing regular training on driver safety can go a long way toward avoiding these violations. Companies that put a focus on driver safety can implement proactive measures to improve safety and reduce risk. Contact Interstate Motor Carriers to learn more about managing your fleet’s safety and risk needs.