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 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 March 13, 2019
The e-commerce boom has dramatically impacted the trucking industry. Gone are the days where drivers could wait several days, or even a week to fill their trucks before hitting the road. As e-commerce industry giants continue to increase customer expectations, trucking businesses need to find ways to make fast deliveries without increasing shipping costs.
Managing Shipping Expectations
One of the greatest challenges created by the e-commerce boom is balancing shipping expenses with consumer expectations. With 55% of customers preferring same-day delivery and 44% expecting next-day delivery, truck drivers are going to be hard-pressed to keep up without increasing shipping charges.
Consumers don’t want to pay extra shipping fees, and in many cases expect free shipping. With more companies offering free shipping on minimum orders, the solution to the added expense will likely fall on the retailer rather than the consumer. As a result, packaging is expected to undergo significant changes. Smaller, lighter, leaner packages are likely to replace less streamlined options currently in place.
Challenges for Fleets
As more brick and mortar stores close, as the result of more efficient online competition, truck drivers are in higher demand than ever. Compounding this issue is the ever-growing truck driver shortage. While this is a challenge for fleets that make their living with long hauls, it spells opportunity for local and regional operators. It is often more efficient for independent operators, and smaller regional fleets to make the short-haul and last mile deliveries than it is for large fleets. Amazon Logistics offers an example of the new opportunities available to owner operators and trucking entrepreneurs. Their website offers an “opportunity to build and grow a successful package delivery business,” with low startup costs, technology assistance, and an existing customer base. Today, savvy owner-operators can identify a wider variety of local and regional shipments that don’t require travel outside of their state boundaries.
Shifting industry dynamics also results in a changing risk landscape. Fleets that make long hauls have different concerns than owner-operators that work within a 250-mile radius. Whether your transportation business comprises a fleet of vehicles or is an independent operation, Interstate Motor Carriers can help. Contact us to learn more about our innovative solutions to reduce transportation risk.
Posted on January 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 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 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.
Posted on September 17, 2018
As Hurricane Florence continues its trek across the east coast, truck drivers are reminded now more than ever that hurricane season is still in full force. Although this summer has been relatively quiet concerning hurricanes, Florence made up for the calm with Category 4 winds and torrential rainfall. Weather events of this magnitude require that truck drivers need to take extra precautions to ensure their personal safety, and the safety of their trucks and cargo.
7 Steps to Prepare Truck Drivers For Sever Weather Events
Weather events like Hurricane Florence will have long-lasting effects on truckers, from closed roads, to flooded terminals, the impact of these events can dramatically impact drivers and fleets. The following steps can help truck drivers manage changes in their routine and stay safe during the storm:
- Cancel or reroute all deliveries that cross through the path of the storm.
- Allow for extra time to reach locations, and plan multiple alternate routes.
- Pay close attention to National Weather Service announcements (every two hours as the storm approaches). Many locals may believe the storm won’t be as significant the news portrays. Inaction can result in tragedy. Heed all local weather advisories and evacuation notices.
- Move all vehicles that won’t be used to higher ground in areas affected by the storm. The location should be free of trees, power lines, or any other objects that could impact the vehicle.
- Fill all vehicle fuel tanks prior to the storm, as power may be interrupted in many locations and cause delays in fuel deliveries. This can lead to closed fuel stations, long lines and increased prices at the pump in areas affected by the path of the storm.
- Perform a thorough pre-trip inspection to ensure tires, windshield wipers, and all lights are operational. Drivers do not want to be caught in bad weather when they discover a problem with their vehicle they could’ve addressed before they started driving.
- As always, slow down, increase driving distance, brake slowly, and make sure headlights are on during inclement weather.
Important Changes to HOS Rules for Hurricane Florence
Truck drivers in the most affected areas trying to evacuate don’t need to worry about violating hours of service (HOS) regulations. Both the Governor of North Carolina and South Carolina issued executive orders waiving HOS rules as well as Size & Weight requirements for truck drivers as they prepare for Hurricane Florence. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) also issued a Regional Emergency Declaration for Delaware, D.C., Florida, Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia exempting drivers from Parts 390-399 of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs). Restrictions do apply, so drivers should be sure to familiarize themselves with the Emergency Declaration.
A truck driver’s number one priority during a hurricane should be his or her safety. To learn more ways to reduce your risks, contact the experts at Interstate Motor Carriers.
Posted on August 27, 2018
Many owner operators and small fleets discount telematics, as large fleets are often construed as the primary buyers. However, this doesn’t mean smaller operations can’t benefit from telematics. The data provides valuable feedback for drivers and fleets, regardless of size. Telematics solutions can track acceleration, driver speed, fuel economy, idling time and braking metrics. Telematics can provide exact location data for all vehicles and trailers, extremely beneficial in the event of a stolen truck or lost trailer. Many small fleets write off telematics because they are often considered large scale applications and come with an equally large price tag. However, there are many cost effective solutions today, and even basic smartphone apps, that drivers and managers can use to obtain Telematics data. While a smartphone app alone would be cumbersome for larger fleets, a manager of a small fleet can track the data for a few trucks from the palm of their hand.
More robust Telematics solutions, from organizations like Lynx Telematics and DriverCheck offer some highly advanced features, though many of these organizations also offer an owner operator version of this technology. Here is sampling of features available from the DriverCheck Telematics solution:
• Driver Behavior-harsh brake/fast acceleration/speeding
• Posted speed limit analysis
• Maintenance alerts and reports
• GIS map integration
• 3rd party vendor software integration
• Driver ID
• Panic Button
• PTO/Accentuator Monitoring
• Unlimited user(s) access from any internet connected device
• Idle and start stop driving reports
• Client customization reports
• Email/text message event based alert notification
Though pricing and features vary widely, costs for Telematics can range from under $14 per month for one truck, to over $40 per month per vehicle.
Owner operators and smaller fleets need to embrace newer technologies to stay competitive. As functionality increases and costs decrease, even the smallest trucking firms can improve operations and profitability by utilizing these cloud based solutions. To learn more about mitigating your trucking risk, contact the experts at Interstate Motor Carriers.