Posted on March 20, 2020
On March 18, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) expanded existing exemptions to further aid emergency relief efforts as the nation grapples with supply shortages. Fleets and commercial vehicles providing direct assistance in emergency relief support efforts benefit from the expanded exemptions. Examples of emergency relief support include:
- Delivering medical tools and supplies to aid in testing, diagnosing, and treating COVID-19
- Delivering sanitary supplies in addition to equipment needed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 such as masks, gloves, soap, hand sanitizer, etc.
- Delivering emergency food supplies to restock grocery stores
- Delivering tools, materials, or individuals required to establish and maintain temporary housing, quarantine, or isolation facilities related to COVID-19
- Transporting individuals identified by Federal, State, or local authorities for medical, isolation, or quarantine purposes
- Transporting individuals that perform medical or emergency services
- Delivering any raw materials needed to manufacture the above essential items
- Delivering fuel
The biggest changes to the order include the addition of raw materials and fuel as exempted cargo. FMCSA further stressed this only applies to legitimate emergency relief efforts. Fleets performing routine deliveries that add an insignificant amount of emergency relief items to their load do not meet the guidelines for exemptions.
Fleets that are exempt don’t need to maintain records of duty status (RODS) logs, but FMCSA recommends making a note in the remarks section of activity logs to identify the exempt hours. This will help mitigate confusion or discrepancies in the future. Like the original declaration, drivers must receive a minimum of 10 hours off-duty time after returning from transporting property and eight hours after transporting passengers.
6 Things Not Covered by the Expanded Exemptions
Fleets and drivers must still adhere to several other safety regulations related to the following:
- Testing for controlled substances and alcohol consumption
- Commercial driver’s license (CDL) requirements
- Insurance requirements
- Transporting hazardous materials
- Size and weight requirements
- Any other regulations not specifically exempted by the updated emergency declaration
Some states are allowing for temporary changes to weight requirements. Many states are also offering a temporary grace period for CDLs on the verge of expiring, as many government offices are closing to adhere to the CDC’s social distancing guidelines.
Interstate Motor Carriers understands there are more questions than answers in these uncertain times. We are here to help your fleet keep pace with emergency relief demands while keeping your drivers safe and your risks in check. Contact us to learn more.
Posted on December 17, 2019
The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) held its annual national Brake Safety Week this fall. Of the 34,320 trucks CVSA inspected, 13.5% received out of service violations. While brakes are just one element of typical inspections, they are one of the leading causes of accidents. Failing to inspect brakes properly before driving long distances is a significant safety concern that CVSA highlights during its annual brake inspections. Inspectors noted the following as the most frequent tubing and brake hose violations:
- Thermoplastic hose chaffing: 1347 violations
- Thermoplastic hose kinking: 1683 violations
- Rubber hose chaffing: 2567 violations
- General misapplications of rule §393.45 of the FMCSA Regulations: 2704 violations
In promising news, highway fatalities are on the decline for the second year in a row. However, fatalities related to large trucks increased slightly. With the goal of zero highway fatalities, there is plenty of room for improvement when it comes to trucking safety.
How to Inspect Truck Brakes
Seasoned drivers may think their experience means they don’t make pre-trip inspection mistakes, but time has a way of eroding skills. Reviewing what officers look for during inspections can help prevent an unexpected out of service order. To get started on inspecting their brakes, drivers will need to do the following:
- Check brake adjustments when the truck is cold; heat expands the brake drum and can yield inaccurate results
- Inspect the brake chamber to ensure the size is correct
- Determine if the truck has standard or long-stroke chambers as this affects adjustment limits
- Measure the brake’s applied pushrod stroke
Depending on the final test results, drivers can learn if their brakes are out of alignment, by how much, and calculate if they’re within adjustment limits. If not, they can take the next steps necessary to realign the brakes during routine maintenance.
To learn more about improving trucking safety, driver safety and truck insurance, contact the experts at Interstate Motor Carriers.
Posted on December 10, 2019
It’s common knowledge that new driver turnover rates are high, which compounds the on-going driver shortage problem. A recent survey by Stay Metrics illuminates just how bad turnover rates have become. Stay Metrics surveyed more than 3,200 new drivers and unearthed several insights into driver turnover. In the first 90 days of employment, 35% of new drivers quit. The trend continues for the first year of employment as well as only 36.5% of new drivers stay with their carrier for a full year.
The survey asked drivers questions after their orientation and again several weeks later. Then they checked in to see if the drivers were still with the company at the 90-day mark to draw conclusions between their answers and subsequent turnover. When surveying new drivers, analysts determined the following questions provided the greatest insight into turnover rates. Here are a few examples:
- Did the recruiter accurately describe what it would be like to drive for the carrier?
- In orientation, did the driver learn how much settlement he or she would receive?
- Would the driver recommend this carrier to another driver?
If drivers answered these questions in the affirmative, they were more likely to stay. A strong, common theme is the need for transparency. To retain drivers, recruiters need to make sure they are providing clear and accurate descriptions of the work. Overpromising or hiding the truth of the job will yield unhappy drivers who aren’t likely to last long.
What Drivers Had to Say
The language drivers used during the survey also provided insight into whether they would stay or leave. When looking at the final question, which is a significant indicator of the driver’s loyalty to the company, drivers most often used words like Work” and “Pay”. These words both showed up with frequency regardless of whether the driver would or would not recommend the carrier. What this tells trucking companies is that the work, the pay, and the drivers themselves are of significant importance and influence retention as well as turnover.
This leads back to the first four questions and the common theme of transparency. If drivers are misled about the work or pay, they’re more likely to leave and not recommend the carrier. If recruiters are truthful in their descriptions of what to expect for trips as well as compensation, the driver is more likely to stay and recommend the carrier.
Recruiting and retaining drivers are some of fleets’ greatest challenges. While transparency is a must, there are other things fleets can do to make themselves more competitive and appealing to drivers. Contact the experts at Interstate Motor Carriers to learn more about keeping your trucking company and truck drivers safe.
Posted on November 27, 2019
The winter months are very hard on commercial vehicles, especially trucks that experience heavy use. Without adequate maintenance and care, failure rates can skyrocket. Frozen fuel lines, poor traction, and stranded truck drivers are all real possibilities if drivers fail to meticulously winterize their trucks and their fuel. Truck drivers should follow these key tips to keep trucks in optimal working order this winter:
- Be vigilant about tire pressure. Tire pressure changes with the temperature, and the change can be significant. As temperatures oscillate, they can result in dangerous changes to tire pressure. During the colder months, drivers should perform pressure checks with greater frequency. Without proper inflation, tires don’t grip well. In wintry conditions, proper traction is vital to safety.
- Stay fueled. While having half a tank of gas may seem sufficient, drivers shouldn’t allow it to drop below this point. When tanks are less than half-full, water vapor can collect, make its way into the fuel line, and freeze.
- Keep an eye on fuel ratings. Most gas stations carry a 2D blend of fuel in the warmer months while offering a 1D and 2D blend during winter months. While this blend isn’t as efficient, it’s less likely to cause engine problems during the winter. Drivers should make sure they’re using the best fuel for their weather conditions.
- Choose fueling stations wisely. While truck drivers running low on fuel have fewer options, staying on top of fuel volume allows them to be picky about where they refill their tanks. Drivers should try to fill up at larger truck stops. These locations move high volumes of fuel, which can help prevent gelling.
- Keep filters fresh. Fleets should replace fuel filters often and in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations. Particle buildup can lead to gelling.
- Drain air tanks and fuel water separators. As temperatures steadily decline, it’s easier for water to condense in fuel tanks. From there, it can make its way to the filter, which is the only thing protecting the engine from contamination. When temperatures drop to extreme lows, drivers should perform this task daily.
In addition to preventative maintenance and proper fueling practices, truck drivers should carry a roadside emergency kit for winter weather conditions. Even the most veteran drivers can experience unexpected conditions. For more tips on improving trucker safety and ensuring your truck has the right truck insurance coverages, contact the experts at Interstate Motor Carriers.
Posted on August 30, 2019
Every year, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) conducts Brake Safety Week to help reduce the number and severity of crashes caused by defective brakes. This year the CVSA will conduct roadside safety inspections on September 15-21 across the country. Any commercial vehicle found to have a critical vehicle or brake violation will be placed out of service until the driver corrects the issue. Vehicles that pass inspection will receive an official CVSA decal.
What is the Focus of This Year’s Inspections?
CVSA will be paying special attention to brake hoses and tubing this year. While hoses and tubing are part of a standard inspection, CVSA wants to highlight their importance in keeping commercial vehicles mechanically sound and safe for operation. During last year’s three day International Roadcheck, brake system violations and out-of-adjustment brakes accounted for 45% of out-of-service violations. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) echoed this finding in their 2018 Pocket Guide to Large Truck and Bus Statistics, reporting that brake violations accounted for six of the top 20 most frequent violations.
Brake hoses and tubing are critical components to the braking system as a whole. When they degrade, the entire system begins to experience problems. Prior to Brake Safety Week, fleets and drivers should inspect their hoses and tubing for the following:
- Properly attached
- No leaks
- Good flexibility
Knowing how to identify chaffed or worn hoses is critical to remaining in operation. Inspectors will look for the following when checking hoses and tubing:
- Any damage that extends through the outer reinforcement ply. An important note: Thermoplastic nylon tubing sometimes utilizes braiding that differs in color between the inner and outer layer. If the second color is visible, this is an out-of-service violation.
- If there is any bulging or swelling when they apply air pressure.
- Audible air leakage.
- Improper joining/clamping of hoses to tubes.
- Airflow restriction due to heat, clamping, etc.
Before your next road trip, drivers should take a break, and check their brakes, to make sure they will pass inspection. This makes sense from both a business and safety perspective.
With September rapidly approaching, the time is now to prepare for Brake Safety Week and Interstate Motor Carriers can help. With more than 75 years of experience in the trucking industry, we know trucking safety and truck insurance. Contact us to learn how we can help your fleet.
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 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 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 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.