Category Archives: Trucking

Keeping Truck Drivers In Mind Series: Part II – Truck Driver Training

In Part II of our series on keeping your truck drivers in mind, we wanted to take a closer look at how you are training your truck drivers. How you train your truck drivers is just as important as how you communicate with them.

They say perception is reality, and how your truck drivers perceive you are training and communicating with them can be just as concrete as what you are actually doing. Do your truckers feel valued? Do they feel appreciated as career professionals? The best motor carriers go far beyond simple truck driver training, they also help their employees improve their skills.

Fortunately, technology increasingly plays a role in ensuring trucking companies are properly training their people. By utilizing technology, motor carriers can help pull all the disparate pieces of training and development together to ensure their truck drivers are the best of the best. When it comes to hiring and retaining truck drivers, you’ve got to make sure your training and communication endeavors are firing on all cylinders.

Is your fleet doing its best to interact positively with its truck drivers? More importantly, are your trainers properly delivering a method of communication that gets across to them that the fleet cares not only about how they are getting paid, but their overall wellbeing? Most fleets have a training manager, but do they have a retention manager? In many cases that answer is no.

When it comes to retaining truck drivers, the responsibility generally falls upon the operations side. Many think that a truck driver’s direct supervisor also plays a huge role – whether trough action or inaction – in determining whether or not a truck driver remains satisfied in his or her job. Yet, that isn’t always the case.

Different Approaches Based on Experience

Getting deeper into the discussion on how fleets can best interact with their truck drivers, one must look at which truck drivers are seasoned pros, and which are new hires. Experienced truck drivers tend to have the lowest level of turnover; thus, they need to be trained and utilized in a different way than new truck drivers.

Experienced truck drivers often carry a lot of weight with their peers and are leaders among the pack. Never treat veteran truck drivers as though they are fresh out of the gate. When crafting how you uptrain and communicate with experienced truck drivers, realize that you must craft an approach that speaks to them specifically. When you create training, incentive, and reward programs, they must be tailored specifically to the truck drivers in question. Experienced truck drivers respond positively to million-mile incentive programs because they very often have those miles under their belt.

New truck drivers should be given more attention than the seasoned professionals. When it comes to operating a Class 8 commercial motor vehicle, they will need a lot of safety training immediately, with operational, dispatch, ELD, and other forms of training soon to follow. Many fleets require their new truck drivers to watch a certain amount of training and safety videos during orientation.

From Hands-On to Online

Many fleets are moving their training and communication efforts from a hands-on approach to a technological approach, whether it be through video or other web-based technologies. Motor carriers now have the capability, whether in-house or outsourced, to create training modules that can be accessed from wherever the truck driver is. Web-based modules offer a level of training and communication integration that the truck drivers of yesteryear could only dream of.

Some outsourcing training operators even offer truck driving simulators, where new truckers can actually simulate driving a Class 8 vehicle in specific situations. Imagine being able to put a new tuck driver in a simulator that provides them with real-time winter-like driving conditions.

There have even been test groups where control groups were used to study whether simulator training was effective and found that the close monitoring of both the simulation and classroom results found that simulator training was quite effective in shaping how truck drivers react to real world scenarios.

After the simulation, truck drivers can be tested on specific aspects of the scenario. For experienced truck drivers, you can even have them do once-a-year testing to double check their skills or provide them with new scenarios to learn. In many cases, experienced truck drivers find these simulations to be quite fun.

Training simulation and digital training modules can also be connected to sensors and video cameras installed on the trucks. This way the training can be customer-tailored to the needs of the truck drivers themselves. Are you finding a certain truck driver is tending to speed or commits illegal lane changes? Why not tailor your training simulation or web-based module to address that specific need?

Combining the Best Strategies

The fact is this: good communication and comprehensive training should be linked together. When a company provides interactive self-study modules, truck drivers are better placed to learn because they are receiving the information in a less-disruptive way.

Still, online training and connected technologies may represent a brave new way of addressing truck driver training needs, you still need coaching and mentoring to supplement what you are doing on the training and communication side. Do you have experienced truckers mentoring your new truck drivers? Furthermore, are you using classroom and physical lesson components to supplement your online and web-based initiatives? You will need a library of content that applies to truck drivers in almost every situation.

Does your training program address more than simply driving a vehicle? Consider that your truck drivers will have to work with new technologies that they may not already be familiar with. They will also need to comply with new regulatory requirements. If they are out on the road and wind up facing a roadside inspection, how will they handle it?

This is where the benefits of in-cab training come into play. In-cab training and coaching provides a level of empowerment to your truck drivers, making them feel as though they are a part of the solution. It also provides gentle coaching while helping your fleet increase its fuel efficiency. Systems like these work by providing tones or alerts when a truck driver goes out of optimal fuel range or engages in a behavior that is counter to what they should be doing while operating the vehicle.

A lot of these systems also employ machine learning, so once a system is installed on a particular vehicle, it can follow and learn that truck driver’s specific behaviors and fine-tune its training to address those behaviors. It can even consider specific engine and truck types when addressing how to coach the truck driver. And since the operator is getting feedback from a machine, the method of delivery is completely neutral. There is no way a machine can come off as condescending.

Technology also provides a motor carrier with a common denominator. There are no gray areas. You know exactly what you are getting when you choose to go with a technological training solution. Why take a chance when you can use methods that won’t leave you wondering about whether they are effective or not. Many companies and outsourcers exist to help your fleet make the transition into a technological training and development solution.

The idea, in using these technologies, is to coach your truck drivers on what they are doing right or wrong without making them feel isolated or spoken down to. By utilizing technology, whether it be a simulator or in-cab training device, you can take out the prospect of needlessly upsetting your truck drivers simply because you have not taken the right approach. Speaking of the right approach…

Keeping the Right Attitude

More than anything, whether your truck driver is brand new or has years under their belt, you want to make sure you are communicating in such a way that doesn’t make them feel like they are being talked down. You don’t want to come off as condescending or treating your truck drivers as though they are not aware of something they should be aware of.

You will always get a more positive response from your truck drivers when you address them positively and in a constructive fashion. No one likes criticism or being told they are doing something wrong, but it is all about the method of delivery. If you are letting your people know that they are valued in a positive way, they will respond more positively to your feedback, thus creating better results for everyone.

Of course, training and how you approach coaching may not work on everyone within the organization, but it will go a long way to ensuring that you are covering all your bases. The best way to attract and retain the best people is to have a good organization in place. Are you doing everything you can where recruiting, retention and training are concerned? If not, you may not be doing enough.

Keeping Truck Drivers In Mind Series: Part 1 – Follow The Money

When most companies are attempting to attract talent and handle employment problems, they generally do the first thing that comes to mind, which is to throw money at the problem. While it may seem like this is a knee-jerk reaction destined to fail, keeping long-haul truck drivers happy in today’s job market does take more than just a pleasant thank you and a whole bunch of perks. Money does talk. How much you pay your people must be a tactical consideration.

Beyond Perks

Boosting the pay for your truck drivers has long been downplayed by long-haul fleets. It must be remembered that pay cannot be rolled back. As a result, many motor carriers have done everything in the playbook except increase pay outright. From bonuses to other perks, they have been looking for other ways to entice truck drivers, yet it may be time to consider calling the Monopoly man.

While offering perks designed to increase truck driver comfort, provide more home time, and generous healthcare and retirement benefits go a long way, it may be time to do more than offer various incentives as opposed to offering concrete increases in mileage-based and hourly pay rates.

With the nation’s economy on the rise, other-than-pay-raise solutions are increasingly seen as not enough to address the growing concern, when related to the truck driver employment shortage specifically. The freight market is on fire, but so is the overall economy, with the Labor Department’s December jobs report showing an addition of 228,000 jobs in November. The United States unemployment rate is currently at its lowest rate since 2000.

A Growing Problem

Look at the numbers provided by the American Trucking Associations and the picture looks even bleaker. The average turnover rate for truck drivers working for large truckload fleets rose in the third quarter of 2017, representing one of the highest levels of truck driver turnover in over four years.

According to ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello, “Since bottoming out at the end of 2016, the turnover rate at larger fleets has steadily risen — a function of an improving economy, rising demand for freight transportation, and fierce competition for drivers. Fleets continue to tell us that competition for good, safe and experienced drivers is fierce, pushing wages higher in hopes of attracting the best talent.”

As we have reported in the past, the truck driver shortage continues, with no end in sight. Yet, the problem also lies in the pay. Consider data from the National Transportation Institute, which shows that in 1979 a unionized truck driver would make the equivalent of nearly $102,000 if the numbers were drawn in 2016. Instead, the real numbers for truck drivers in 2016 shows they earn around just over $54,000.

Private fleets – which are generally insulated from these types of problems – are also feeling the pinch. Private carriers are pretty good at luring experienced truck drivers away from fore-hire fleets, but that is becoming a much harder proposition. Even offering starting pay packages that range from $50,000 to $70,000 hasn’t alleviated the problem.

Changing the Name of the Game

Because of these ongoing problems, you will find many fleets have completely revamped their pay and benefits packages over the past ten years to account for this problem. Since there are not enough truck drivers to keep the long-haul trucking model sustained, many fleets have moved to a regionalized model, which could include pay raises from 1 to 2 cents per mile all the way up to 7 cents per mile. These are big numbers.

Fleets are now looking to arrange their pay and benefits packages by region, rather than other factors less related to distance-per-pay by mile. Starting pay packages are weighted far greater by the type of haul the truck driver will be embarking on as well as the experience the truck driver brings to the table.

Referral bonuses are also becoming a far larger part of the pay picture. For some fleets, if you can find a truck driver to sign on, you could get up to a $3,000 referral bonus and – in some cases – even extra mileage pay for a predetermined amount of time.

Would you ever have imagined a $10,000 sign-on bonus for hiring a truck driver? These are staggering numbers. Of course, only the largest fleets can afford such bonuses, but that doesn’t mean other fleets with less resources aren’t also readjusting their strategy.

Looking at the Negatives

There is a demographical problem in truck driving. Many are under the impression that the new generations of job seekers will fail to consider trucking as a viable career choice. Others feel like money may be the key. The average age of truck drivers continues to climb. There must be an equalizing factor at play. While truck driving is physically demanding work, it comes with a host of benefits.

While some think it may be hard to live a “regular” life as a truck driver, a lot of the new benefits, perks, and pay packages are making it an increasingly tempting value proposition for those looking for a stable and secure career. Freight needs to be moved from one place to the next, and this has never been truer than right now.

Although blue collar industries countrywide are having trouble filling jobs, the market for truck drivers looks increasingly appealing. Although truck drivers are concerned about how much they are paid, they also want to make sure there is some security to what they are being paid and the frequency of said pay. While salaried office pay is predictable and set, some people interested in truck driving may not understand the intricacies of how truck drivers are paid, be it by the mile (whether actual or physical) or by the hour.

How Should Truck Drivers be Paid?

While many truck drivers and industry pundits point to truck driver pay as a major concern, as we brought up a moment ago, how they are paid is also quite important. Yet, one of the biggest challenges facing fleets today is how they are paying those truck drivers, whether it be weekly, monthly, by mile or hour or otherwise.

Part of the problem lies in the trucking business model. Payroll systems are not designed for the type of work truckers do. Truckers might often receive payroll reports from multiple systems, all while trying to reconcile them together. While third-party companies are attempting to address this problem, fleets must also come up with solutions.

Payroll managers and back-office workers must be able to explain how reimbursements will be handled in an easily understandable way for people looking to get into truck driving. They must be able to dispel confusion over different payroll systems, schemes, formulas and scale reimbursements. Are your fleet’s managers prepared to handle these conversations?

How to Structure Pay

Another question is how often pay is raised. In many industries, pay raises are merit based and can be expected every 12 months. Does the same hold true for your trucking company? When recruiting truck drivers from other industries or fleets, you must be able to differentiate yourself.

Some fleets are experimenting with a pay raise scheme that provides increases every three, six, and twelve months. This way it gives new truck drivers incentive to stay on for just a while longer to reach that higher pay grade. Once they cap out, then a twelve-month merit increase kicks in. Pay raise determinations can also be made based on experience within the industry and whether a potential truck driver has any DOT violations on their record.

Motor carriers must also factor in retention and recruiting costs. Retention costs and benefits should include such items as training, referral and seniority bonuses. Does your fleet offer company-paid healthcare, life insurance, retirements accounts, and other fringe benefits? Even if you do, remember that the focus should always be on truck driver pay.

Some companies also offer a weekly minimum pay guarantee, which provides a baseline level of pay that offers predictability to a truck driver’s life. Others offer a 2- or 5-cent-per-mile increase based on truck driving experience and certain safety measures. This way experienced and safe truck drivers are rewarded and offered a greater incentive to stick around.

When truck drivers have a lot of experience or over a million miles of safe driving, offering them compensation through increased pay provides more than a one-time shot in the arm like a bonus. They continually feel that greater appreciation each time they receive their paycheck. Benefits like that are hard to measure individually but carry great weight with the truck drivers they benefit.

Join us in the next Part of our series where we take a closer look at how to find the truck drivers you are looking for and keep them on, whether it be through increased pay, better benefits, or more. When it comes to attracting the right people, we have the answers you are looking for right here at the QuickTSI Blog.

Yet Again: The Truck Driver Shortage

The title says it all. Haven’t we been talking about this for a long, long time now? It seems like the truck driver shortage problem just won’t go away. Today, as economists from all sides talk about how close the United States is to full employment, there is one part of this discussion left out. There are some critical constraints on the labor market that could have lasting impacts.

Let’s look at a couple of examples. If there were a shortage of chefs in the United States, the economy would adapt. Either wages would rise, eating out would be more expensive, or consumers would choose to stay at home and eat instead. The same applies to shortages of employees in many other jobs. The economy relies on the trucking industry in a way that it relies on few other industries.

Truck drivers are critical for many reasons. Keeping freight moving across the nation’s roads and highways is vital to our supply chain and continued economic growth. Consider that the trucking industry represents 70 percent of U.S. freight movement by volume. That is a huge number. Without enough truck drivers on the road to get that 70 percent where it needs to go, a confluence of factors – none of them good – could result in some serious problems.

The Full Story

Imagine shipments across the country facing intractable delays and producers having to pay much higher prices as a result. As we mentioned before, the truck driver shortage is something the trucking industry has been talking about for a long time. At this point, however, real numbers are pointing to the fact that the truck driver shortage is starting to have a real business impact on the economy.

Other industries that were facing shortages have not been experiencing the same problem. Take the construction industry as one example. Construction companies have been facing a shortage of construction workers for many years, yet in the past 12 months, the construction industry has added hundreds of thousands of workers. Somehow, they cracked the code. Can the trucking industry do the same?

Perhaps. Perhaps not. Just look at the numbers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ employment report, trucking employment has remained essentially unchanged since mid-2015. Yet, during that same time, economic growth has skyrocketed. We now have one of the lowest unemployment rates we have seen in many, many years. Coincidentally, the trucking employment peak we are working with now coincides with the peak we attained in the last economic cycle of 2006.

As a result, companies across the board have been signaling freight constraints in their fourth quarter earnings calls. The result? Higher operating costs and lower profit margins. Take Hershey has one example, they recently noted that their gross margin dropped by 180 basis points. The reason they point to? Higher freight costs.

As higher transportation costs weave their way through the economy, gross margins will continue to fall. As wages continue to rise, could we see this create greater inflationary pressures as well? Now the question is: will this situation change anytime soon?

If there is one bit of depressing news to report on regarding the trucking shortage, is that no one expects the labor situation to change anytime soon. To make matters worse, all the talk of the town is on self-driving trucks – yet no one seems to be considering the impact that discussion has on perspective truck drivers, who must commit to multi-week classes to get their CDL. Are they making this commitment within an environment that may soon go away? Another constraint on the truck driver shortage can be found in the recent ELD mandate. By no longer allowing truck drivers to use paper logs to keep their time on the road, the ELD mandate could result in even more reduced capacity.

Even more, economists point to that even though the unemployment is very low, the employment-to-population ratio for workers trying to find jobs during their prime age range of 25 and 54 is still a bit below the peak. What does this mean? The labor market is likely still not operating at its full potential. Even worse, if motor carriers can’t fill the seats in their cabs, this could create undue strains on other markets and put a cap on the kind of employment growth the U.S. is looking to see.

Just imagine for a moment if an established – or new – company wants to open a new factory but cannot find additional truck drivers to facilitate that transition. Same if someone wants to build and ship new products but the costs of freight are too high. If it becomes uneconomical for said company, the nation’s economy loses a measure of economic output as a result.

What you will see coming on the heels of this paradigm is what is considered surge pricing. If moving stuff around the economy becomes a lot more expensive, it would be like trying to call a ride-sharing car during peak hours. Prices go up and everybody pays more.

Whether it be Amazon trying to make deliveries or restaurants trying to get foodstuffs on their shelves, companies end up paying more, and you know who they pass those costs on to: consumers. When demand outstrips supply, this is what we see occurring. In these situations, prices rise until demand dampens. The cyclical nature of the economy demands these kinds of shifts. But what are companies doing about it?

How Companies Cope

The surge in transportation demand is causing trucking companies to charge up to 30 percent more than they normally would for long-haul routes. With the truck driver shortage doing nothing to ease concerns, where will we see this paradigm end?

As we also mentioned a moment ago, higher freight costs add to concerns that inflation will continue to heat up and cause the Federal Reserve to once again raise interest rates. Average hourly earnings also increased 2.9 percent in January from a year earlier. There are both opportunities and problems with how companies are dealing with the problem.

One transportation company has begun offering a staggering $40,000 (you read that right) bonus to persuade truck drivers to operate in teams. Doing so allows truck drivers to have one person rest while another takes the wheel, thus increasing the amount of time that the truck can stay on the road. Other long-haul operations are making the decision to move their freight movements to rail or other intermodal methods.

Even more, the problem exists north of the border as well. Because of the increased demand, railroad operators such as Canadian National Railway Company are struggling to keep up with demand within their own rail capacity.

Motor carrier consolidation further clouds matters. Still, the increases in trucking rates are hitting companies across the board, so no one competitor is gaining an edge over the other. This is an industrywide issue that is impacting nearly every company operating in every sector within the economy.

The Hard Truth

So, how many truck drivers are needed to address the problem? The numbers don’t look good. Roughly 90,000 new truck drivers will be needed each year through the next five years if economic growth continues to expand at its current rate. By the end of 2018 alone, it is estimated that the trucking industry will need another 50,000 more truck drivers. Where will all these truck drivers come from if the economy is currently sitting at near-peak employment?

Many are saying that once there is a truck driver shortage of 100,000 or more on a per-year basis, we could start to see major problems up and down the supply chain. From product shortages to delivery delays and major inflation. But what is causing the shortage?

Some say the truck driver lifestyle can be hard. From extended periods away from home to sleeping in the cab of a truck on most nights for long-haul truck drivers. Still, there are upsides to being a truck driver, from seeing all the states, to going different places, experiencing different things, and meeting lots of different people.

If there is one thing that the truck driver shortage is resulting in, it is greater bargaining power for potential truck drivers themselves. Many can shop around, looking for gigs with companies that offer higher bonuses, greater starting pay, better amenities and so much more. Even truck stops are getting into the game, with the Iowa 80 truck stop holding an annual Truckers Jamboree, where recruiters come in looking for potential truck drivers. This year? More than 44,000 people attended. It is true, we have entered a hyper-competitive employment market for truck drivers, which is driving positive change for those working behind the wheel.

Still, trucker median pay sits at around $41,000 a year. Is this enough to lure enough potential truck drivers into the cab? Only time will tell. For now, both the trucking industry and the economy will be looking for just about any resolution they can to solve the ongoing truck driver shortage issue.

In-Cab Technologies That Are Changing Trucking Jobs

As the truck driver shortage becomes more acute, trucking companies are increasingly turning to evermore creative ways to address the problem. From sign-on bonuses to better pay to more comprehensive training, trucking companies are doing everything they can to find people to put in the cab and different ways of keeping them there.

One such way is through better in-cab technologies that incentivize truck drivers. By giving truck drivers – especially long-haul operators – a more comfortable experience in the cab, trucking companies aim to not only ease the truck driver shortage but provide a far better experience for those currently operating under their purview. Today, we will look at some ways that trucking companies are addressing this problem and providing a far better experience for their truck drivers.

Getting Driver Buy-In for In-Cab Technologies

It shouldn’t seem too hard to get truck drivers to buy into in-cab technologies. After all, these technologies are designed to make their lives far easier, right? Sure, but still, when truck drivers are tasked with learning new technologies or adapting to different ways of operating, there are learning curves.

Even more, not all fleet executives have had the chance to look closer at in-cab technologies in the field. They may not be completely aware of all that is involved and be less inclined to put the necessary dollars into investing in these technologies. A way to combat this is to let truck drivers who don’t respond well to the new technologies to opt out, but to also give fleet executives solid presentations or examples of how these technologies can enhance their own fleet operations or increase truck driver morale.

Whenever a fleet implements a new technology, truck driver buy-in is incredibly important. It goes without saying that when a motor carrier invests in a new technological advancement, they often benefit. But management must also consider the impact these advances have on those operating on the front lines.

Fleets who adopt new in-cab technologies need to be aware that there is an emotional hurdle to truck drivers signing on to using them. What is the best way to ensure this emotional hurdle is overcome? Invest in technologies that directly benefit the truck driver!

New In-Cab Tech That Truck Drivers Love

With no end in sight to the ongoing truck driver shortage, fleets are looking to better in-cab amenities to ease the crunch. But what amenities could possibly turn the tide? Let’s look at some of the technologies fleets are employing to help counteract the trucking employment problem.

One way is to outfit new trucks with top-of-the-line interiors spec’d straight from the manufacturer themselves. Included in all the creature comforts a fleet might offer the latest in communication and factory-installed safety systems. While safety technologies are something every fleet manager wants for their own reasons, truck drivers appreciate them because they demonstrate a willingness on the trucking company’s part to keep their employees safe while out on the road.

Even little-thought of things like custom-paint jobs can go a long way to making a trucker happy. When a truck driver is operating a vehicle that looks unique out there on the highway, it gives them a certain sense of ownership. They feel special riding in a rig that looks good.

Of course, the cost of such refits and technologies add up, but so do the benefits of utilizing them. Many fleets consider it their corporate responsibility to keep their truck drivers happy. After all, aren’t these the front-line employees that keep the wheels of the company moving? Without them, there would be no bottom line.

While it is hard to measure the return-on-investment for safety related technologies, in many cases the benefits can be felt from talking to the truck drivers themselves. By asking them how they feel about the changes, they will often report increased motivation and greater morale.

In addition to looking at increased safety measures, technologies such as satellite television, radio, and in some cases, even in-cab microwaves go a long way to making truck drivers far happier when they are out there on the road. Even more, these amenities can also be tied to safety incentives.

As an example, if a truck driver incurs a speeding violation, the company-paid satellite service could be deactivated for a month. In this way, new amenities are tied to improved safety outcomes. If the truck driver who incurred the violation completes the next month with no violations, or even year, perhaps the service can be upgraded. When tying in-cab amenities to safety in such a way, trucking companies can see a marked improvement on their overall CSA scores.

Other in-cab amenities that may have once been thought of as inconceivable in a semi-truck include appliances, televisions, and even video game systems that can be used when the truck is not operating. These types of amenities also exist outside the cab.

Some trucking companies are outfitting their fleet headquarters with truck driver lounges with stainless-steel appliances, granite countertops, a theater room, giant televisions, gyms, private showers, dining areas, and much, much more.

Spec’ing In-Cab Batteries for All That Technology

One thing fleet managers struggle with is how to power all this new technology being packed into the cab. Whether truck drivers are watching television, playing a video game, or operating another piece of electronically-taxing equipment, the answer for many is in in-cab power converters and technologies.

But the question is, what kind of battery technology will do the trick with so many potential devices running off the battery? Many fleet managers and fleet technicians point to inverters as the way to go. When parked at a truck stop with electrified support, inverter/chargers help keep batteries topped off no matter what they are running.

AC power will remain available to any devices within the cab even with the vehicle turned off and not plugged into a direct power source. These devices also play an important role in safety technologies. With sleep apnea being a problem in trucking, some truck drivers operate with a CPAP machine in their truck. A power inverter will keep this device, and other essential electronics devices functioning.

Fortunately, with fuel economy on every motor carrier’s mind, many are looking to weight as a critical way to decrease the amount of fuel they burn. While inverters and chargers come in various forms, some of the better varieties have a lightweight footprint, coming a compact form that can weigh at, around or even less than 12 – 15 pounds. When it comes overall vehicle gross weight, 12 – 15 pounds is nearly negligible.

Even better, top-end inverters, batteries and chargers require nearly zero maintenance. If your fleet technician is changing the oil or doing some other form of routine maintenance, worry not, they won’t have to pay any attention to the power supply running the in-cab technology.

What Are Their Lifespans?

Typically, in-cab power sources come with 2 – 3-year warranties, but in reality, will run up to 8 – 10 years. Proper varieties will meet all safety and federal requirements for quality and reliability. They generally also have many redundant and safety features built in to withstand heavy operation cycles for more prolonged periods of time.

They can also resist power spikes and overloads, being able to shut down internal components before a catastrophic failure burns out a television or other vital truck driver amenity. These built-in power sources, complete with AC power conversion, can pass through shorepower as well.

A cab equipped with a battery source or power inverter/converter can power everything from a:

  • Television
  • CPAP machine
  • Refrigerator
  • Microwave
  • Induction cooktop
  • Gaming system
  • Laptop charging station
  • And more

Tracking Turnover as a Result

When better in-cab amenities are employed, trucking companies often see a direct impact on decreased truck driver turnover. When trucking companies shave even a small amount of attrition costs, it has a huge impact on the overall bottom line.

Trucking companies need to access all the tools at their disposal to counter truck driver attrition. Even more, they need to make their truck drivers feel like they have an invested future in the direction of the company. By focusing on their comfort and the levels of comfort, truck drivers feel like they are appreciated and desired by their company and are less inclined to look elsewhere for employment.

Even more, they contribute to the increased profitability of their company by feeling better, driving safer, and incurring less violations while out on the road. All of this represents a win-win for the truck drivers, their employers, shippers and everyone else along the supply chain.

So, next time fleet executives are tossing their heads together trying to figure out how to increase truck driver happiness, decrease overall turnover, increase profits and watch their clients’ happiness rise along with their profits, focus on what is happening in the cab. Keep your front-line truck drivers happy while they are out there on the road and your entire company stands to benefit.

How Might The New Infrastructure Plan Impact Trucking?

During his recent State of the Union address, President Trump outlined his administration’s plan for a new infrastructure push. The reaction by trucking companies and interest groups has been in favor of the plan, if for no other reason than that it closely aligns with a plan that was leaked to the media in January.

The contents of that leaked document showed that some of the wishes of both the American Trucking Associations and the United States Chamber of Commerce – which included a request to raise the gas tax, ironically – were not in the draft plan. What was in the plan included wish-list items, though they did not outline specific methods for paying for these items.

The draft outlined:

  • 50% to specific infrastructure initiatives;
  • 10% for transformative projects;
  • 25% for rural infrastructure projects;
  • 7% for federal credit programs, and;
  • 5% for federal capital financing funds.

When the document first leaked, other interest groups took issue with some specific measures, including the suggestion that states should be given the right to put tolls on interstate highways and use those tolls to fund infrastructure improvements in the state. Even more troubling to trucking industry groups was the idea that states should also be allowed to “commercialize” interstate rest areas, essentially forcing truck drivers – or the motor carriers they work for – to pay for truckers to use state-run rest areas.

Trucking industry groups also took issue with the idea of placing new tolls on highways, calling them “new taxes” go more towards corporate profits and administrative costs rather than new construction. So, with the new plan now out in the public, does it match up with the leaked document, or are trucking stakeholders still up in arms about the plans potential proposals?

A Look at the New Plan

First, this is a big infrastructure plan. The final total could wind up coming north of a trillion dollars. Of course, the plan is for $200 billion of direct federal investment, but there is also a mention of another $1.3 trillion in state, local, and private funds to help complete the improvements. While the American Trucking Associations (ATA) President and CEO Chris Spear states the group was pleased that the new plan at least kick-started a new debate, but that was about as far as his pleasure went.

In a public statement, Spears stated that the plan, as it stands, “falls short of the President’s campaign promise to go big and bold, because it lacks the required federal investment. A proposal that relies on fake funding schemes like highway tolls and privatizing rest areas will not generate the revenue necessary to make significant infrastructure improvements.”

They also took issue with regarding commercialization of rest stops the government would essentially be allowed to hand-pick a company that would be allowed to operate with unfettered access to the market to operate state rest areas exclusively. Some on the other side contend that there may be a way for them to open up the market for true competition.

With the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) in danger of insolvency, many think addressing that first would help solve the problem a lot faster than the interstate tolls and rest stop privatization. The HTF is designed to finance federal spending on these types of improvements through fuel taxes and other relates excise taxes.

Other Groups Bring Up Highway Trust Fund

In another statement, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials came out in defense of supporting the HTF. While they were less openly critical of the plan, this interest group did not hide its desire to focus more on fixing the funding issue with the HTF than they did with allowing interstate tolls or rest stop commercialization.

The Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors took issue with the president funding model as well. They mentioned that freight network improvements should not happen on a piecemeal basis considering more than three-fourths of the nation’s freight movements travel between states. As a result, they advise direct investment from the federal government, as opposed to relying on states to apply tolls and privatization efforts at their leisure. Even more then investment, coordination is required to ensure improvements happen uniformly, rather than piecemeal.

The group went on to explain how the Commerce Clause of the Constitution comes into play. It specifically states that the government must support interstate commerce, and it must do so through investments in the movement of goods. They worry that without specific federal coordination, it will be hard to identify which investments will be put towards the most important freight projects. By treating all freight projects, the same, critical improvements might be overlooked for less critical projects.

A Closer Look at Tolls

So, what’s the big deal about tolls anyway? UPS Freight President Rich McArdle referred to toll collection through the lens of inefficiency. They contend there is no real way to track where the money is going once it goes into the hands of the investors.

UPS specifically worries about having access to an unrestrained flow of goods. Moving freight around the country while contending with various tolls. They admit that the rise in potential movement costs may be passed on to the customer, resulting in greater costs spread around over an undetermined amount of time.

The National Association of Truck Stop Operators (NATSO) pointed out that the administration of toll stations and associated upkeep and administration costs the government a lot more than administration of an increase in the fuel tax. They also contend that the toll road itself may represent sort of backhand tax by themselves, as costs are moved on.

Another Look at TIGER Grants

TIGER grants, though included within the administrations fiscal year 2019 budget request, did not appear to be included within the new infrastructure plan. Specifically called the Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program, many trucking and highways advocacy organizations consider the TIGER program to be an excellent tool for managing the movement of goods and potential infrastructure improvements.

Another aspect of taxing interstate highways lies in the additional freight costs that shippers and others trying to move goods around the country will incur. Shipping and manufacturing companies will raise their rates to account for the new tolls. Once that happens, expenses will be passed on to those shipping the goods.

Issue was also taken with potential congestion and public safety concerns as traffic is pushed to secondary roads to avoid the potential tolls. With accidents involving heavy-duty commercial motor vehicles already a hot topic, some wonder whether pushing more trucks and cars onto side roads is a really good idea.

Will It Come to Pass?

No matter what your position on the plan itself, the question is: Will it actually come to pass? If it gets through Congress with the President’s party in charge, it won’t matter who has what opinion of the plan.

The plan itself is a 55-page document that refers to a “prime-the-pump” concept. It also aims to cut red tape and any other bureaucratic measures that continually bog down important projects. Many are saying that the proposal doesn’t stand very good chances in Congress.

With a federal budget set to go into deficit with big tax cuts and spending increases, many lawmakers are having trouble digesting the cost of the proposal. While Republicans may have some issues with the price tag, on the other side of the aisle are more in favor of using actual federal dollars, as opposed to a mixture approach.

Congress and trucking interest groups have long-supported raising the federal gas tax and tying it to inflation to keep the Highway Trust Fund, the actual plan released by the administration does not consider this specific funding measures.

The White House explains the project as promoting state and local interests. They go on to state that there is a belief of a maximization effect on the value of the taxpayer dollar. If the government throws in around $100 of the $200 billion proposed, they believe this will act as a spur states, municipalities, and private partners to increase their share and get the infrastructure jobs done.

In the end, with so many interest groups arrayed against the proposal, and the federal government looking at a deficit that could wind up raising long term interest rates in a big way, many don’t believe there is much chance of the plan coming to reality, but perhaps a scaled down version of it could be re-written and sent to Congress for approval.

Whatever happens, get ready for a big battle, both on and off Capitol Hill, at the White House, and inside the halls of trucking companies and advocacy groups. Sides are being taken and it is still anyone’s guess as to whether trucking companies will wind up paying more tolls down the road, a higher gas bill, or nothing at all. Here at the QuickTSI blog, we don’t take a side, we just report the news.