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.
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 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 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 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 October 10, 2018
Uber launched its innovative trucking app “Uber Freight” a little over a year ago with the intention of revolutionizing how truck drivers perform their jobs. The app works much like standard Uber services. However, instead of pairing a rider with a driver, the app pairs a truck driver looking for a job with nearby freight. Truck drivers can plan these jobs weeks in advance or the day of if they so desire.
Why is Uber Freight Good for Owner Operators?
One of the key differences for truck drivers booking a load with Uber Freight versus on their own is that they don’t have to negotiate the fare with shippers. Uber Freight predetermines and guarantees prices before the shipment begins. Once the driver delivers the freight, the app starts the reimbursement process and guarantees payment within seven days.
How Does Uber Freight Calculate Prices?
Uber Freight takes a number of factors into consideration when developing a delivery price. These include:
- Distance. This is one of the biggest elements in determining a price for a delivery.
- Cargo type. Some cargo is more valuable or sensitive and thus nets a higher rate.
- Location. Certain areas generate higher prices much like any other service.
- Surge pricing. Uber Freight understands supply and demand and adjusts prices to reflect the marketplace.
How Does the App Work?
Traditional Uber services don’t give the rider many options when it comes to their driver. However, Uber Freight offers Owner Operators many options to secure the best load for their rig. Drivers can swipe through a variety of available jobs rather than the app pairing them with one like Uber does for traditional riders. The app also recognizes the need for fine-tuning and allows drivers to sort by date, time, and location.
Uber Freight Perks Program
Uber Freight developed a reward program called Uber Freight Plus for drivers that frequent app users. The app offers different discounts based upon frequency such as:
- Uber Freight Plus fuel card. So long as drivers book one load per month, the app saves them 20 cents per gallon at TA/Petro truck stops and 15 cents per gallon in participating Roady’s gas stations in California, Texas, and Illinois. These individuals can also save up to 30% on Goodyear tires.
- Savings on truck purchases. Once an individual hits 10 loads per month, they can save up to $16,000 at Navistar on new trucks or earn a $4000 rebate for used trucks from participating brands. Navistar also offers 20-50% off the cost of parts and vehicle maintenance.
- Other perks and benefits. There are several bonuses for drivers who use the Uber Freight Plus app such as discounts on phone plans with Sprint.
The app also learns driver preferences over time much like Pandora creates unique stations for its users. The app pays attention to the driver’s preferences, such as where they prefer to travel, and makes recommendations on available jobs. Drivers can also list their availability to help companies match with them.
Uber Freight can be a major benefit to independent operators and small fleets. Harnessing the power of innovative trucking technology can help truck drivers decrease the amount of time they spend looking for jobs and improve their overall bottom line. To learn more about enhancing and protecting your trucking operation, contact the experts at Interstate Motor Carriers.
Posted on August 07, 2018
Many within the transportation industry scoffed at the notion of autonomous vehicles, and they weren’t alone. The idea of self-driving vehicles seemed like science fiction at best and dangerous at worst, yet the technology is here and already in use. Budweiser shipped over 50,000 cans of beer in a self-driving truck, and Uber, Waymo, Tesla and Embark are all running live pilots with autonomous trucks. While the technology isn’t 100% ready for the public at large, it’s rapidly becoming a reality. High tech tools and futuristic technology are dominating recent transportation publication headlines with solutions like these, which are all available today:
Telematics and GPS Fleet Tracking Systems
Simply said, telematics encompasses the software and devices that power the electronic features found in all vehicles including trucks. GPS is one of the key applications in telematics, and includes:
- Navigation, fuel monitoring and route planning
- Driver behavior applications including braking, fast acceleration and speeding
- Complex route planning and arrival/departure alerts
- Automated tracking and analytics productivity reports
- Trailer tracking and historical routing
- Idle and start/stop driving reports
ELDs and Trucking Software Applications
ELDs provide the wireless tools and technology to ensure that truckers and fleets maintain compliance with the FMCSA ELD mandate.
Self-driving Trucks and Platooning
As mentioned previously, self-driving truck testing is well underway. Platooning is also being tested by manufacturers including Daimler. Platooning extends self-driving technology by wirelessly tethering trucks together, allowing them to operate in a tighter highway formation (convoy) than would be possible with human drivers at the wheel.
Tesla is the big name when it comes to electric vehicles, and Tesla Semi, the automaker’s electric truck division has been accumulating many reservations over the last few months. Tesla is expected to produce all electric trucks in 2019. But they aren’t alone, as many major manufacturers are actively working on completely electric trucks. Volvo has announced two new fully-electric trucks designed to take the place of urban delivery and refuse collection vehicles. Both will be available in the European market in 2019.
What to Expect in the Coming Years
As if the list above insufficiently represents the dramatic changes happening in the trucking industry, there are some seemingly imminent and impressive technologies expected to impact truckers and fleets in the near future. These include:
Heads up displays (HUDs) are nothing new for vehicles, but augmented reality is about to take them to the next level. BMW is working on a HUD that can superimpose real-life objects from the road onto a truck’s HUD to allow drivers to navigate obstacles with greater ease.
Trucks require ongoing maintenance and recalibration to perform at their optimum level. However, new technology will allow software to make these calibrations without ever pulling into a repair shop.
Trucking companies need to prepare for these dramatic changes, and Interstate Motor Carriers can help. Contact us to learn how we can help protect you today and in the future.
Posted on June 13, 2017
Fleet fraud is costly. A staged accident or injury claim by an employee can mean expensive payouts and increased insurance premiums, so it is essential that your business take steps to prevent and detect employee fraud. Anti-fraud measures and internal controls can and should be designed and customized for each individual organization based on its unique characteristics. In addition, stay alert for these red flags:
- Driver with a history of prior accidents of similar circumstances
- Driver with multiple past claims with the same attorney
- Driver that demonstrates familiarity with claims process and claim evaluation
- An overly enthusiastic witness present at the accident scene
Fleet management programs that include a fleet safety policy are most successful at preventing fraud when they cover the following areas:
- Management commitment: Clearly define management’s role and commitment to preventing and detecting fraudulent claims. Most perpetrators of fraud engage in illegal conduct only when they perceive that they will not be caught.
- Written policies and procedures: All permitted and prohibited driver behavior, along with proper procedures to follow in the event of an accident, should be clearly listed in a written policy.
- Driver agreements: Documenting a driver’s commitment to conform to all policies and procedures can help deter aberrant behavior. If an organization increases in its employees’ minds the perception that the illegal acts will be detected, it deters occupational fraud.
- Motor vehicle record checks: Conducting a motor vehicle record check in addition to a standard background check can expose any suspicious driving or claims patterns before hire or before permitting an employee to use a company vehicle.
- Crash reporting and investigation: Conduct thorough investigations of each claim. Provide forms for employees to complete in the event of an accident.
- Vehicle selection, maintenance and inspection: Conduct regular inspections to demonstrate ’s commitment to preventing accidents and fleet fraud.
- Disciplinary action system: Make the serious repercussions of fraud clear, including legal action and termination. Adopting concealed internal controls may assist in detecting fraud, but it generally does not prevent it because employees are unaware of their presence and potential detective ability.
- Reward and incentive program: Reward employees for good driving habits and lack of accidents and claims. For any business operating vehicles under a fleet motor insurance policy, it is important to demonstrate to an insurer that adequate fleet procedures are in place to minimize costly risks—including occupational fraud.
For more information about controlling insurance costs, contact the professionals at Interstate Motor Carriers today.