Posted on September 17, 2019
A rise in technology and shifting customer expectations have dramatically changed the landscape of the trucking industry. As a result, many of the trends driving business decisions in the trucking industry are leaving fleet managers and carriers frustrated and with fewer options. However, it isn’t all bad news as fleets learn to navigate the changes affecting their businesses. The following are leading trends influencing the trucking industry:
- The driver shortage. This has been a challenge for years and trucking companies have taken numerous steps to try to address it. Some opted to entice new talent pools such as veterans or women. Others are trying to change regulations to allow drivers under 21 to operate on interstate highways. Now, nearly two-thirds of the industry are increasing benefits, pay, and more, to try to entice qualified drivers.
- Competition undercutting prices. When polled, 66% of trucking companies reported losing contracts to unprofitably low competitor offers. Fleets need to continue to find unique ways to improve efficiency and economies of scale to lower costs.
- Confidence in expansion. Not every trend is negative for fleets. Over a third expect to expand by 11-25% despite a predicted economic slowdown for the industry.
- Reducing costs with technology. Technology has been able to save fleets money in a variety of ways. With ELDs and telematics, fleets are able to identify gas-guzzling behaviors, pinpoint unsafe drivers, and provide better maintenance. Not only does technology help fleets stay on top of preventative maintenance, but it can also provide predictive maintenance suggestions as well. For example, artificial intelligence can run detailed analytics to compare the service history of fleets and isolate moments when brakes, tires, or other components will likely need servicing or replacement to avoid blowouts and accidents.
Keeping up with the latest trends affecting the industry can be a challenge. While not all trends withstand the test of time, some have been a thorn in the industry’s side for years such as the driver shortage. Interstate Motor Carriers knows that fleets have enough things to keep track of without adding new and challenging developments to their plate. Contact us to learn how we can help your trucking business.
Posted on September 06, 2019
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has finally issued their proposal relating to changes in the hours-of-service rules. During the comment period, the U.S. DOT agency received over 5200 comments. Based on that feedback, FMCSA is proposing the five following revisions:
- Amending the 30-minute break requirement. Current regulations dictate that drivers take a 30-minute break after eight hours of on-duty time and the break has to be off-duty status. Now, FMCSA is suggesting the 30-minute break follow eight hours of driving time and that not-driving status can satisfy the break (i.e. the driver can stop to grab something to eat to satisfy the break requirements).
- Splitting the 10 hours off-duty period. The new proposal would allow drivers to split their off duty time between a sleeper berth and another qualified off-duty status. Drivers could spend 7 to 8 hours in a sleeper berth and the remaining hours off-duty to satisfy the off-duty period without it counting against their 14-hour driving window.
- Revising the adverse driving conditions exception. The new ruling would grant drivers up to 16 hours of on-duty status in the event of adverse conditions affecting the roads such as severe weather or heavy traffic.
- Modifying off-duty breaks. Sometimes drivers need to take breaks, but they run the risk of pushing the 14-hour workday rule. The new ruling would allow drivers to take a break ranging from 30 minutes up to three hours while being able to pause their on-duty status. This would allow truck drivers to wait out heavy traffic to use their drive time more efficiently.
- Increasing the short-haul exemption hours and air miles. FMCSA is proposing an increase to on-duty hours and distance limiting rules for truck drivers that qualify for the short-haul exemption. This change would increase the maximum on-duty period from 12 hours to 14 hours and air-mile radius from 100 miles to 150 miles.
FMCSA estimates the proposed changes will save $274 million without sacrificing the safety of truck drivers or the motoring public. They also emphasized that the rule limiting drivers to eight consecutive hours of drive time followed by at least a 30-minute break remains in effect.
Interstate Motor Carriers understands the challenges fleets face trying to remain compliant with ever-changing regulations and truck insurance requirements. Contact us to learn how we can help your trucking business.
Posted on July 16, 2019
Compensation planning is an instrumental tool for truck driver recruitment and retention. There are many nuances to ensuring that fair, competitive and attractive compensation plans are in place. Salary adjustments, bonuses, allowances, insurance benefits, and more go into truck driver’s earnings, and fleets need to make sure their plans are financially sound and up to date. Follow these tips to develop a more effective trucker compensation plan:
- Define clear compensation goals. The trucking industry at large is operating on tight profit margins, and compensation has a significant effect on a company’s bottom line. Whether a fleet plans to keep pace with other trucking companies or lead the pack in rates per mile, they will need to incorporate it into their compensation planning and overall budget.
- Plan for allowances and benefits. An employee’s compensation isn’t limited to his or her base pay. Today, benefits and allowances are an important component of that final number. Fleets need to take into consideration the costs of medical care and any allowances such as food compensation that they may provide when creating their compensation plan.
- Keep an eye on the market. The economy changes and influences the industry in several ways. Fleets need to keep up with a dynamic and changing market to retain and recruit. In the current climate, annual reviews of this data may be insufficient to respond to changing market forces.
- Establish performance-based salary adjustments. Increasing base pay on the merit of seniority is an antiquated approach and rewards longevity over efficacy. Better drivers that consistently complete their deliveries on time and undamaged while operating their truck safely should receive bigger pay increases than lower or unsafe performers. Compensation plans should include tiers and a ranking system to easily see where employees land.
- Have clear compensation guidelines. If pay increases are subjective, it will cause issues among employees. Biases and personal relationships shouldn’t have any role in determining changes to pay. Developing a clear outline for when and how pay increases and bonuses occur will help address this potential issue.
- Give accolades to top performers throughout the year. Employee appreciation goes a long way toward retention. While every employee would love to receive a bonus, this isn’t always possible. If a fleet can only afford annual bonuses, they should look for other means to recognize top performers on at least a quarterly basis.
Employee compensation is a multifaceted issue which is crucial for truck driver recruitment and retention. Trucking fleets, both large and small, need to ensure they invest enough time and energy to get the return needed from their compensation plans. Contact the experts at Interstate Motor Carriers to learn how we can help your company make sound decisions while balancing your risk and reducing losses.
Posted on July 03, 2019
Since September of 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires any trucking company hauling food for consumption (human and animal alike) to comply with the Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food Rule (STF). STF’s aim is to provide accountability for all steps of transporting food from farms to forks.
The rule calls for truckers hauling food to comply with the shipper requirements, which means following best practices for temperature-controlled cargo. FDA also indicated the ruling has some flexibility, allowing truckers to continue following best practices for cleaning, inspection, maintenance, and so on to prevent food from spoiling when transporting it.
Who Bears Responsibility?
There is some confusion over who is responsible for ensuring the sanitary and safe transport of food. The rule identifies shippers at the responsible party. While FDA defines this as whoever initiates the shipment, the International Refrigerated Transportation Association (IRTA) stresses that carriers and loaders need to abide by the STF regulations as well.
Carriers need to make sure they understand every step of shipper requirements and adhere to any supplied food safety plans to ensure a safe, unspoiled delivery. IRTA also recommends maintaining documentation should any lawsuits occur to protect carriers.
For example, maintaining clean trailers is critical to prevent cross-contamination. Even if a fleet employs standard cleaning protocols between deliveries, they should make a record of every cleaning in the event of a lawsuit. If food turns up contaminated, providing proof of a thorough cleaning prior to shipment can go a long way to absolving a fleet.
How the Ruling Affects Carriers Going Forward
The FDA didn’t set out to alter cargo insurance claims, however this ruling indicates a shift in risk approach. As a result, good record keeping alone may not always be enough to protect fleets from legal action related to spoiled food. The experts at Interstate Motor Carriers are intimately familiar with the risks trucking companies face when hauling food cargo. Contact us to learn more about reducing your trucking company’s risks.
Posted on June 25, 2019
The trucking industry is undergoing massive and rapid changes as truck designs become more complex and nuanced. As a result, repairs to these advanced machines need to keep pace, employing more finesse and deeper diagnosis. Today’s trucks are vastly different from the ones in production twenty years ago. Yet with many repairs, mechanics and technicians are treating modern vehicles as they did with previous generations.
What are the Differences?
In previous decades, not many truck developers or repair mechanics gave much consideration to the first second of a crash. They were more concerned with the aftermath and ensuring the vehicle could be returned in good working order, as quickly as possible. Today, however, technological advancements have changed how trucks react to crashes within the first second, to keep the driver as safe as possible while improving overall fuel economy and performance. These include:
- Lighter weight material to save on fuel
- Upgrades such as foams, seam sealers, and rivet attachments to change how the cab reacts to a crash
- Upgrades to comply with stricter regulations for greenhouse gases
- Advanced steel with unique welding properties
Why These Differences Matter
Repair technicians need to consider these differences, or the repairs of today can become severe risks for tomorrow. For example, advancements in welding can create holes for rivets which may stretch during a crash. Sometimes, they’re only meant for one use and need to be replaced. While customers want their trucks back as soon as possible, expedience in this case can result in unsafe trucks on the road.
One of the biggest roadblocks is a simple lack of knowledge or training. The heavy-duty vehicles of today are vastly different than the ones most technicians worked on to learn their trade. Like any big change in the industry, fleets need to take the time to ensure their repair mechanics have proper training to keep vehicles in good working order without compromising safety.
Fleets can’t afford to overlook risks like outdated repair techniques. The experts at Interstate Motor Carriers are intimately familiar with the issues facing the ever-evolving trucking industry and we are here to help. Contact us to learn more about reducing your trucking company’s risks with our innovative solutions.
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.