Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Damaged Truck Bodies

When business is on fire and your vehicles and truck drivers are constantly on the go, it can be tempting to overlook simple damage to your tractor’s bodies. Yet, in doing so, you may be causing more harm than good over the long run.

It is no secret that keeping a large fleet in tip-top shape is not an easy proposition. Still, with new products and technologies arriving by the day, it should be easier than ever to ensure your fleet looks good and performs well, no matter the state of your business or bottom line. Sure, trucks don’t have it easy, with long hours on the road and dents and dings seeming to happen by the day, but these are more than simple nuisances.

Fleet managers rarely want to pull trucks out of the line to handle what they consider to be “cosmetic” issues, but simple dents, dings, rust or otherwise are about more than aesthetics. Not only do truck body malformations and simple damage impact factors like fuel economy, but they also damage your company’s reputation. Even more, if you allow too many trucks to suffer too many minor damages without addressing them, it will be much harder to fix them later. Compounded, these issues present a logistical nightmare.

Is it Difficult or Easy?

OEMs, body, and material paint suppliers are continually refining their methods and products to address truck body damage concerns. This means there should be no reason why fleet managers overlook truck body damage. There are lots of new and innovative ways to get it fixed.

On the other side, you will find many a fleet manager bemoaning the complex nature of advanced truck design, which uses new components and materials in ways that they had never been used before. With many different OEMs using proprietary composites and designs, fixing truck body issues can be more complicated than one thinks.

As one example, Daimler utilizes aluminum cabs while Navistar uses steel. Other OEMs use fiberglass panels and other composite materials. As a result, today’s fleet technicians need specialized sets of skills, especially if a motor carrier is using trucks from different OEMs.

Historically, metal has always been an easier material to work with, but today technicians need to deal with composites, plastics, and other materials of different shapes and forms. With a complex repair process seeming to get more complex by the day, another worry on fleet managers’ minds are the overall repair costs to keep truck bodies in good shape.

Simple items like glues and adhesives can run close to a hundred dollars and there are few ways to get around using them. Ensuring the truck body is repaired properly is about more than good looks, but is also about safety, fuel efficiency, and more. If a fleet repair technician does not carefully follow the repair procedures outlined, mistakes can be costly.

The Advanced Components Used in Truck Bodies

OEMs are not the only ones continually on the hunt for better materials and new, advanced building methods. Businesses that produce the materials used to repair commercial motor vehicles are also under pressure to be continually innovate within their space. What is one example of this needs for constant innovation?

One example could be the obvious decreased used of rivets in truck body manufacturing. While less rivets is good news for those painting the trucks, this manufacturing methods creates headaches for those repairing truck bodies. Plastics and composites require specific materials and procedures to be repaired.

One company has introduced repair procedures and processes that utilize seam sealers, foam installations and bonding adhesives. Now that rivets have gone the way of the DoDo Bird, the only way to repair or ready panels and joints is through the aforementioned products. The same company has also introduced a liquid-molten resin, which can be used in many different truck body repair applications, regardless of the material used to build the body.

In the ever-increasing rush to decrease truck weight and increase overall fuel efficiency, more unibody designs are hitting the streets by the day. With everyone on the learning curve, holding to the manual when it comes to repairing truck bodies has never been more important. Fortunately, a lot of these materials are in themselves lightweight and come with built-in cost advantages.

Composite sidewall materials are even being used on dry vans and trailer bodies. Plates are made from a high-density core bonded to a steel skin. Repair technicians find that not only are these panels more resistant to damage, but they are quick and easy to work with in a pinch. Instead of cutting out whole sections of the body to repair damage, a simple swapping out of the composite sidewall panel is all it takes to get the job done.

Large Fleets Partner Up

One of the ways the trucking industry is driving innovation in the space is through partnerships with established brands. Large trucking fleets are building relationships with the companies who manufacture truck body repair and sealing products. Working closely with those creating the products fleet technicians use carries inherent benefits to both the fleet and the company manufacturing the materials.

When a large motor carrier works closely with commercial vehicle repair material OEMs, their shops increase turnaround times and do a much better job repairing their truck bodies than they would have otherwise been able to do on their own. When a shop can turnaround minor damage within one day, fleets experience less downtime. Larger accidents require more work, but when the small jobs get off the block at a faster rate, the bottom line doesn’t suffer any negative impacts.

Yet even for larger accidents or damage repair work, advanced composite materials can decrease the downtime fleets suffer. They can be used to handle major body repairs in a faster time than would otherwise be possible using standard rivets or other material design and building techniques.

Painting Over Problems with New Materials

The fact is, every fleet wants to minimize the amount of downtime a tractor suffers. Every minute spent in the body shop is another minute the vehicle is not making money for the business. Now, OEMs are coming out with commercial grade products that allow touch-up paint jobs to be completed without committing the vehicle to days in the shop.

When a vehicle can be touched-up in a fleet maintenance facility rather than the paint booth, everyone wins. The fleet saves on time, labor and money. Paint touch-ups can also be completed using rollable and aerosol products. Even wheels can be brought back to tip-top shape using these materials.

New advances in quick body touch-ups also include such unexpected developments as using ultraviolet light to cure paints. Some of these technologies have been long in use in the passenger car market but are now being adapted for use in commercial motor vehicles.

Ultraviolet light can be used to quickly identify areas on the body that need to be touched up before the underlying structure becomes corroded. It is vitally important to ensure moisture does not contact metal, which allows corrosion to set in. Why not take care of a minor paint touch up before ignoring it creates the need for major body work?

There is even greater innovation in paint colors, which have often been a stumbling block for fleet repair technicians. With computer programs now available to complete paint matching, paint refinishing can now be completed using techniques that take things like natural fading, sunlight damage, and discoloration into account when formulating the correct color. With different players involved in the repair and refinishing of truck bodies continually refining their methods, what excuse do you have to not keep your fleet looking as good as it should be?

Looking Good for your Company’s Sake

Keeping these considerations in mind is as much about preventing downtime, increasing fuel efficiency, and keeping your shop technicians happy, it is also about burnishing your company’s reputation. What kind of impression do you think gets made if a potential client or customer sees your vehicles barreling down the road looking like they have seen better days?

Motor carriers are operating in very competitive environments, and that’s not just where finding new trucking clients are concerned. As the trucking employment squeeze seems to go on without end, finding experienced truck drivers to work for your company is as much about what you are offering as it is about how you look. Prospecting truckers are going to go with companies that demonstrate they care by maintaining a good-looking fleet. Showing you care about your equipment can also be construed as caring for your truck drivers.

The fact is, you don’t want to be losing potential recruits or business to competitors for the simple reason that they keep their trucks in better shape than you do. With all of the new materials available today, there should be no reason why any fleet should be operating vehicles that don’t look the part.

A Closer Look At The History Of Hours Of Service And The Latest ELD Mandate Analysis

With the ELD Mandate having taken a firm hold, we wanted to spend a moment looking back at the root cause of the mandate, the hours of service (HOS) rule. Afterward, we will provide you, our readers, with another comprehensive analysis of the ELD rule, its implications, and three months into its enforcement, how the rollout is impacting truck drivers and trucking companies.

First, let’s take a deep dive into HOS regulations.

The Birth of HOS

Many may think that HOS rules arose as a recent reaction to trucking safety requirements, when in fact it goes much farther back than that. In fact, HOS regulations first saw the light of day in the 1930s. Yet, the details surrounding how they came into being is still opaque to many who are curious about how the rules were first enacted.

A look into the history books shows that HOS resulted from a combination of labor and government interest in bringing some regulation to a trucking industry still in its infancy. At the time, their goal was to protect truck drivers from onerous and sometimes unreasonable demands of trucking companies. There were little-to-no rules governing trucking operations at the time.

The first regulations related to HOS arrived in 1935, when Congress enacted the first rule. It allowed truck drivers of the time to work 12 hours within a 15-hour period. It also mandated that a truck driver get nine hours of uninterrupted rest and three hour’s-worth of breaks within a 24-hour period. The end result? A weekly maximum of 60 on-duty hours within a 7-day work week.

By 1938, trucking labor unions came together to demand that a truck driver’s mandated hours be reduced to an eight-hour day and a 48-hour limit work week. The petition was originally directed to the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC), but was eventually forwarded on to the U.S. Public Health Service, as the ICC stated they lacked the operational knowledge to act on changing HOS.

While the Public Health Service did not stake a specific position on HOS and recommend changes, it did note that a reasonable limitation of the HOS rules might be in the interest of highway safety. Yet, the ambiguity resulted in nothing changing for nearly three more decades.

HOS Back on the Table in the 60s

It was not until 1962 that the next major change in HOS regulations occurred. Finally, the ICC eliminated the 24-hour framework and replaced it with a work/sleep rotation scheme that mandated truckers be limited to 10 on-hours within a 15-hour period. On the flipside, the 9-hour off-time rule was also reduced to 8-hours after the 15-hour operating period came to an end.

The final impact of this rule change meant that OTR truck drivers could make their way across the country in fewer days but find themselves with no hours left a day or two before they hit the 60-hour, 7-day mark. Obviously, this presented a problem for all interested parties.

As a result, a short few years later, in 1965, another provision was added, called the split sleeper-berth provision. This provision allowed truck drivers to essentially split their time. This was when clock-running on-duty time became a thing. Truckers could then keep the clock running whether they were actually in the sleeper resting or not. While enacted with good intentions, the sleeper berth provision resulted in crowded highways and increasing truck crashes.

Trucking safety advocacy groups quickly jumped into the fray, demanding the government do something about the increase in crashes. They posited that the rising crash numbers were a direct result of truck driver fatigue. In answer, the government requested what would be the first official scientific study looking into the matter of truck driver fatigue.

The subsequent studies, which took place over a period of a few years in the 1970s, found that there was a relationship between truck driver fatigue and the higher crash numbers. Still, much like what had happened 40 years prior, the studies did not provide the government with enough to make any substantial changes. Although the DOT did recommend HOS tweaks, Congress never acted, and nothing was ever done.

HOS Unchanged Until 1995

The resulting lack of action on the part of Congress meant that HOS remained relatively unchanged for six decades. Finally, in 1995, Congress directed the DOT to conduct a new series of studies based on the latest science on truck driver fatigue. In effect, they wanted to know if the HOS rules needed to be modified in some way.

Still, it wasn’t until nearly another decade that anything was done about it. In 2003, DOT finally published a new rule. Unfortunately, the new rule was little more than a slight tweaking of the old rule. Since 2003, HOS rules have changed a little, but remain relatively the same. Many point to the fact that HOS has done little to decrease truck crash rates while decreasing productivity and the ability for a truck driver to get rest when it is needed.

For nearly 80 years, depending on which side you fall on, the hours of service rules have either increased a truck driver’s alertness or increased overall levels of fatigue, while doing little to reduce truck crash numbers. Will the new ELD Mandate somehow change the paradigm? Let’s take a closer look at how it fares a few months into its implementation.

Will the ELD Mandate Improve Trucking Safety?

With HOS in mind, many are asking the big question: Will the ELD Mandate improve trucking safety and save lives? The reality is we don’t quite know yet. The rollout of the new rule has been all over the map, with confusion surrounding the difference between ELDs and e-logs and AOBRDs. There has also been confusion surrounding the electronic transfer of logbook data.

There have also been reported problems with truck parking and fleets and specialty trucking groups receiving exemptions and delays – some say too many. Anecdotal reports speak of owner-operators who have yet to install an ELD in their vehicle taking back roads to avoid weigh stations and inspections. Does all of this add up to a safer trucking picture? Likely not.

Even the safest, most experienced truck drivers have reported fudging the numbers a bit on their paper logbooks so that they could reach a safe area to park at night. When a shipper or receiver puts them behind schedule because of an unexpected delay, they point to the fact that they often had no choice but to change the data to be able to safely park and rest.

In some cases, this has resulted in truckers driving faster so that they can make up for any lost time. Obviously, this is a large safety concern for all motor carriers. One ELD provider completed an analysis of ELD data and surveyed truck drivers attempting to find a correlation between ELD use and decreased safe operation.

Their research revealed that three-quarters of truck drivers surveyed reported being detained at a drop-off or pickup point for at least two hours every week. When they analyzed ELD data on the same truckers, it reported that they often drove 3.5 mph faster after an extended detention event had occurred. It was then that the ELD provider petitioned the FMCSA to provide a two-hour exemption when an OTR truck driver is delayed for any reason at a shipping or receiving dock.

Some have also pointed an accusatory finger at the FMCSA’s safe harbor provision, which prevents the FMCSA from using ELD data to enact regulations related to anything other than HOS compliance. Yet, exempted from that rule is the data gathered from AOBRDs or ELDs used for “other than business” purposes. This presents an uneven playing field where data analysis is concerned. Will the FMCSA alter course to change the current rule and provide a greater use for ELD data when it comes to enforcement? In the current environment, with regulations being eliminated, many say it is unlikely the FMCSA will move to make any substantial changes that result in more oversight or regulation.

Right now, the jury is still out on the full impact of the ELD Mandate on trucking safety. With temporary and permanent exemptions still being rolled out – along with the phased-in enforcement period – it will be some time before the data can be fully analyzed and the impact understood. Even spot rates will help paint a picture once they soften. Right now, the trucking industry is so busy, operators are focusing solely on operational needs rather than ELD data analysis.

We must return to the hours of service rules themselves when discussing the impact of the ELD mandate. Are HOS rules, which have remained relatively unchanged for close to a century, really effective at preventing truck driver fatigue and reducing potential crashes? Furthermore, will ELD data be effective in providing an answer that allows Congress or the DOT to act on making substantial changes to the rule? Only time will tell.

The Continuing Evolution Of Vocational Trucks

When it comes to commercial motor vehicle operation, vocational trucks often have the hardest jobs. Fleets of this type face the same challenges as OTR fleets, but they also have unique needs, resulting from operating in harsh environments and under tough conditions. As a result, OEMs are turning towards new technologies and options. Fleets need to ensure they remain efficient and profitable as vocational truck needs change and manufacturers are answering the call.

One such example is the range of new engine technologies that allow snow plow trucks to operate in the extreme wintery conditions we see today. Even more, with the oncoming push for semi-autonomous and connected vehicles, some wonder where that leaves vocational trucks. While others rightfully assume that OTR fleets will see the first major innovations in vehicle-to-vehicle communication technology, it may be vocational trucks that start to see the first real-world tests come to fruition.

Volvo, for instance, recently posited that the first semi-autonomous vehicles released for public consumption may be garbage trucks that operate within residential neighborhoods. Driving on known routes within neighborhoods, picking up refuse containers that are set at predetermined locations, provides the perfect testbed for vocational trucks with a specific job description.

Motor carriers operating within a vocational capacity have begun turning to established technologies to help them increase the positive impact on their bottom line and increase productivity. Let’s take a closer look at how the field is changing with the times.

How Vocational Tractors are Getting Safer

The first area vocational manufacturers are setting their sights on is the realm of safety. While OTR motor carriers are well acquainted with advanced safety systems, vocational trucks may need them more than anyone.

Take concrete mixing trucks as one example. These vehicles often spend a lot of their operational time working around passenger cars in the dead of night. With urban areas more congested than ever, concrete mixer trucks combined with less experienced truck drivers can be a deadly mix. For this reason, many companies who operate these types of commercial motor vehicles are turning to advanced safety systems to prevent the worst from happening.

Companies operating concrete mixers, refuse trucks, large utility vehicles and more, are looking at everything from active driving technologies to tire pressure management systems. Some advanced safety systems you may have never heard of are even working their way into the trucking lexicon, such as human detection systems. This technology is vital for commercial motor vehicles working on crowded jobsites or in residential areas.

Still, this doesn’t mean that motor carriers are successfully obtaining the technologies they need to increase their vehicle’s overall level of operational safety. Although vocational trucks are evolving with the times, OEMs aren’t always able to spec advanced safety technologies.

OEMs themselves report getting more requests for safety technologies by the day, especially in the medium-duty trucking space. This should not be a surprise, considering vocational trucks work in fast-paced environments with unique challenges.

While it may be hard for a company to figure out how an accident that doesn’t occur impacts their overall profitability, it is a lot easier to see how accidents that do happen harms their bottom line. From missed work, to increased healthcare and ballooning insurance costs, decreasing the chance of an accident from occurring should be every fleet’s top priority, vocational or not.

Safety and Comfort Technology for Vocational Truckers

As trucking technology improves over time, motor carriers find it increasingly easier to justify the acquisition costs associated with advanced safety technologies. And this shift goes beyond what’s happening when the truck driver is operating the vehicle. Ensuring the safety and health of the truck driver themselves is also paramount.

Whether trucking companies are looking to increase their use of step heights and more stable surfaces or grab handles and better lighting, keeping truck drivers happy, safe, and comfortable is at the front of every fleet manager’s mind, and the same holds true for vocational truck drivers. Just consider for a moment how often a vocational trucker gets in and out of their vehicle, and in many cases in poor weather conditions.

Vocational truck driver injuries almost always can be traced back to knees and shoulders. Thus, investing in ergonomic and comfort safety technologies can be a make-or-break proposition, especially in the age of the never-ending truck driver employment squeeze.

Even under-the-hood technologies can have a huge impact on a vocational truck driver’s overall level of health and comfort. Vocational trucks with manual transmissions often result in vocational truck drivers having to maintain constant pressure on the clutch pedal, which puts a lot of strain on their left knee. Moving to automated or automated manual transmissions could result in fleets seeing their healthcare costs drop by large amounts.

How Automatic and Automated Manual Transmissions Make an Impact

Beyond easing pressure on a vocational truck driver’s knees and other joints, automatic and automated manual transmissions are making a big impact across the vocational spectrum. It is no secret that manual transmissions are witnessing a decline in their overall popularity. Many medium-duty applications practically require automatic transmissions.

One area where these transmissions make a big difference is in the training of less-experienced truck drivers. New vocational operators can get behind the wheel and safely begin getting the job done with a far lower learning curve when their vehicle is equipped with an automatic or automated manual transmission.

Yet, the benefits don’t stop at new truckers. Experienced truck drivers also enjoy the convenience and additional safety benefits of operating with an automatic or automated manual transmission, if for nothing else than that it allows them to focus on safe driving techniques without having to worry about shifting. Shifting a commercial vehicle can also be closely associated with truck driver fatigued, which is reduced when truck drivers don’t have to be overly concerned about it.

Maintenance costs also tend to drop when vocational fleets shift away from manual transmission technologies. As new truck drivers attempt to learn on manual trucks, burned out clutches and broken axles become a greater problem. Although there are upcharges associated with spec’ing these technologies, fleet managers can typically justify the spend by pointing to decreased maintenance and healthcare costs. Over the long term, automatic and automated manual transmissions pay for themselves.

A short decade ago, many a vocational fleet manager would have scoffed at the idea of automatic or automated manual transmissions making their way into severe-duty commercial motor vehicles, yet the value proposition of spec’ing these technologies has increased dramatically in a short period of time. They are more resilient than many think and typically result in low maintenance costs.

The Evolution of the Engine

Vocational trucks operate within a specialized environment. Fleets utilizing vocational trucks need maximize their truck’s overall payload capacity, improve fuel performance, and keep sustainability concerns in mind. With all that to think about, fleet managers are turning to the engine for better results.

The duty cycle of vocational trucks must be kept in careful consideration when deciding on engine technology and displacement. Certain levels of horsepower/displacement combinations may work with vocational applications, but will the engine remain resilient over the long term? Although you may be able to get 300 hp out of an 8-liter engine, difficult operating conditions may require a higher displacement for the engine to stay operational over a long period of time.

It must be remembered that there is no one-size-fits-all engine for all vocational applications. Still, many medium- and small-duty trucking fleets are moving away from diesel engines towards gasoline-powered varieties. Gasoline engines can be operated successfully and with lower emissions equipment requirements and maintenance costs.

Alternative fuel options such as propane and natural gas are even seeing greater adoption by vocational fleets. With a lower environmental footprint and operational cost, natural gas-powered vocational trucks come with a far higher value proposition for fleets working within vocational operation capacities.

Even electric drivetrains are seeing increased uptake in vocational operations. With electric cars making inroads by the droves, electric vocational trucks are not far behind, with vocational applications no exception. With minimal moving parts and lower maintenance costs, electric spec’ing has moved from the realm of science fiction into the reality of science fact.

As battery technology improves, companies operating in the vocational environment can scale up without problems. Longer-lasting batteries and advanced software systems are reshaping the vocational trucking landscape.

The fact is, trucking companies operating within a vocational capacity have specific needs and requirements. When a commercial motor vehicle operates in a difficult, crowded, and potentially dangerous environment, it should be no surprise that trucking companies are looking for better ways to give their company an edge while still focusing on truck driver and vehicle safety.

As modern trucking technology evolves, it isn’t just OTR and regional trucking companies that benefit from new applications. Vocational fleets also need new ways to increase profitability while improving safety and efficiency. The evolution of the vocational application is providing them with just that.

Preparing Your Fleet For Last-Mile Logistics

There is a boom happening in the trucking industry, and it lies within the last-mile logistics sector. As more and more consumers turn to the internet to bring products into their home, last-mile logistics is becoming ever more important. For many trucking companies, they still aren’t sure how this will all pan out. Something as simple as liftgate technology can make or break whether a small last-mile operator makes it or breaks it in the world of trucking.

Digging deeper into the numbers, it isn’t hard to see how obvious this trend has become. A recent study revealed that as of now, many Americans prefer online shopping. E-commerce transactions are growing 23% every year. Experts predict this trend will only accelerate as the years go by. The fact is, consumers are embracing omnichannel shopping to get what they need without having to travel far to get it.

What does this mean for trucking companies? It means that many smaller, regional, and even larger players will have to look to last-mile logistics when it comes to ensuring they are meeting the requirements of their bottom line.

Last-mile logistics are defined as the final steps in the process of delivering the customer’s shipment from the distribution center or traditional store to their doorstep. The second-to-last destination could be an office, regional store, or otherwise. As we have seen with Amazon’s recent purchase of Whole Foods, these last-mile deliveries will become even more important.

Logistical Problems Associated with the Last Mile

While some view the last-mile to only include smaller purchases, these can also apply to larger items, such as furniture or appliances, as many of these items are increasingly being ordered online as well. This rapid change in the way business gets done presents both challenges and opportunities for retailers. Whether you are operating a regional, LTL or truckload fleet, there are major considerations when it comes to last-mile delivery.

One of the major issues with last-mile delivery lies in the fact that it is incredibly difficult for a Class 8 commercial motor vehicle to deliver a package into a residential area never designed to accommodate said vehicles. There are many obstacles that trucking companies must deal with when delivering to that last mile, from narrow streets with big trees to low power lines. Truck drivers must deal with many obstacles when traversing the last-mile, so their commercial motor vehicles must be spec’d to handle the obstacles.

Many trucking companies are overcoming these obstacles and responding to the demands by adding smaller tucks and new accessories to their fleets. New technologies can be designed to meet these challenges. Companies are also experimenting with “hubs”, which are essentially on-demand way-stations ready for whatever new order may come through from the customer.

Companies that manufacture trucking accessories and add-ons are also getting into the business. Since there has been such an increase in last-mile deliveries, these companies are responding to the increased demand in ways they never have before. Take liftgates as just one example.

How Liftgates are Evolving

Liftgates allow truck drivers to make deliveries in areas that do not have a standard dock. If you are a truck driver operating from dock-to-dock, the method of delivery is quite simple. You drive in, a forklift grabs your cargo, and you drive out. Conversely, if you are a truck driver delivering a washer to someone’s house, you need to get it to the ground, onto a dolly, and into the customer’s house. Manufacturers are increasingly responding to this need.

Liftgates are undergoing a massive level of innovation to account for these needs. In fact, 20 years ago liftgates were barely a blip on trucking’s radar. Yet, liftgate use across the industry has exploded, and for many reasons. Increased demand and innovation requirements mean trucking companies are looking for more. To make it to the last-mile on the customer’s doorstep, they need three things:

  • Reliability
  • Performance
  • Safety

At the end of the day, a liftgate is nothing more than a work tool. It is required for a fleet to make a certain type of delivery, and, as a result, it needs to conform to the needs of the fleet, whatever those may be.

How well a liftgate performs is important because truckers need to make these deliveries as quickly and efficiently as possible. Safety comes into play because truckers and bystanders need to make sure their safety is kept in mind when work is being handled around the truck, including with the liftgate. Considering a liftgate is an active device that sits on the back of a truck, safety must be a primary consideration.

Why Galvanized Steel is so Important

Yet, will a liftgate last as long as the truck it is attached to? Commercial motor vehicles typically can find themselves on our nation’s roads for anywhere from 10 to 12 years. Will a liftgate attached to them last equally as long? The question has been raised and OEMs are answering.

Many liftgates manufactured today utilize galvanized steel in their construction, which can keep them sound for far longer than 10 to 12 years. Indeed, in many cases, new liftgates can outlive the tractors they are built onto. Still, the liftgate itself is not the only piece. There are also bearings, bushings, and other components that must stand the test of time.

Consider that painted steel begins to corrode within two years and you can see why galvanized steel is so important. When steel is galvanized, it can keep a liftgate operational and free of potential problems for up to 20 years or even longer.

Still, other manufacturers are looking to aluminum as another answer. Did you know that today nearly a third of liftgates are constructed out of aluminum? Not only is this metal more lightweight, but it is also easier to operate and is more corrosion resistant. The only downfall? It is certainly more expensive than steel.

Addressing Power Issues

One of the issues related to powered liftgates lies in how they are powered. When a trailer is spec’d with a liftgate, in many cases a dead battery is the problem. When a trucking company is trying to get that washer delivered quickly, this can be an unacceptable situation.

A liftgate can consume a lot of power, especially when taking into account the type of freight it is designed to both raise and lift. This problem is exasperated if a trucking company is operating in a state where there are no-idle laws in place. If a trucking company isn’t careful, a liftgate can quickly drain a battery and leave the tractor stranded in the neighborhood. So, how does a trucking company get around this problem?

A smart control system is a great start. When you have a smart system controlling battery drain, you can prevent your entire chassis from unexpectedly shutting down. Just imagine if you are running through 25 cycles a day on a single chassis battery. You will go through batteries very quickly at that rate.

This is where dedicated batteries come into play. Even a charge boosting system would work quite well. The last thing you want to do is kill you commercial motor vehicle’s battery far before its due date. A charge boosting system will prevent this from happening.

Considering the Application

It is also important to think about the type of work your liftgate will be doing. Are you doing mostly drop offs? If so, the liftgate will use very little power. But if you are both dropping off and picking up, you may be using far more power than expected. A few thousand pounds in a single cycle can present a major problem without a significant back-up source.

There are multiple ways to deal with the additional power load. Some motor carriers are experimenting with solar power as a way to deal with the problem. A single cable that runs from panels on the top of the trailer through the battery and to the liftgate can alleviate this problem. Even when a trailer is detached from the tractor, a solar-powered solution can keep the liftgate operating under normal conditions.

Power systems and power inverters also offer another option. It is important that trucking operators take voltage conversion into account when using such systems, however. Power connections will have to be closely monitored to ensure there are no spikes that will damage vital equipment.

With Safety in Mind

Finally, safety must be your most important consideration. Using liftgates improperly can result in serious injuries. In busy urban areas, this issue is made even worse. Operational controls must be put into place to ensure truck drivers don’t get a hand, finger or foot caught within the lift gate mechanism.

Have you considered putting flashing LED lights on your liftgate mechanism? Do you have enough traction on the liftgate to ensure your truck driver does not slip and fall during operation?

The fact is, last-mile delivery requires an entirely new set of ideas, and liftgates and tractor modifications can mean the difference between efficiency, safety, performance, and poor operation.

What You Need To Know About Freight Factoring

Freight factoring, also known as “trucking factoring,” represents a form of invoicing and paying for freight that provides trucking companies with a way to turn invoices that have not yet been paid into profit for the company. This also works for the owner-operator model. Freight factoring represents a common way for motor carriers or trucking operators to plug cash flow gaps while they wait for shippers and freight brokers to pay the bill.

There are specific freight factoring companies who handle invoices in this manner. As an example, a freight factoring operator may handle tens of thousands of dollars in invoices per month and advance 90% of the money collected within those invoices. The rates they collect in return can run anywhere from 1 – 4% of the total cost of the invoices they pay out. This is different from a straight bank loan, which would charge an interest rate, as opposed to a percentage of the invoice total. To put it in more simple terms, freight factoring represents the process by with accounts receivable invoices are provided to the company at a discounted price.

Basically, the freight factoring company pays the trucking company an advance and then waits to be compensated by the shipper or freight broker who needs to pay the invoice. In most cases, the freight factoring company will also handle collecting from the clients. As a result, the trucking company does not have to deal with the stress of figuring out when they will be paid. This allows the trucking company to both streamline their cash flow while at the same time not having to deal with clients who are taking their time paying an outstanding invoice. Yet, this is not always the case, as we will learn more about in the next section.

Freight Factoring by Type

If you are a trucking company who is looking into freight factoring because you are tired of bumping up against the 30-day payment limit from the shipper or broker then make sure you understand the different types of freight factoring.  There are two different types of freight factoring, recourse and non-recourse factoring. But what’s the difference?

Recourse freight factoring refers to instances where a trucking company will sell their invoices to a freight factoring company that then pays the trucking company after the load has been delivered. In these cases, the days it takes for the operator to get paid may vary. The distinctive factor in recourse factoring is that the trucking company is responsible for collecting on the invoice. Recourse factoring is higher risk to the freight factoring provider because they must rely on a trucking company to collect on an invoice they have already been paid on.

For smaller trucking operators and owner-operators, recourse factoring represents a riskier proposition because if the trucking company cannot collect on the invoice, they are liable to the factoring company for the money that was paid out, and in some cases, fees may apply. This scenario could put a business at risk for a potential loss should invoices not get paid on time.

In non-recourse freight factoring, the opposite is true. When invoices are sold to the factoring company, the trucking company is not on the hook to collect from those clients. The factoring company pays you after the load is hauled and they assume the risk in the event the invoice is not paid up. Because this puts the higher level of risk on the factoring company, in many cases, a non-recourse factoring rate is slightly higher.

Small trucking companies and owner-operators typically look to non-recourse factoring as the most desirable option since the burden to collect is placed on the factoring provider. This avoids revenue-loss issues if there are collection complications. This way the company can focus on what they do best. Hauling the loads and getting freight from Point A to Point B.

Benefits for Different Size Operators

Freight factoring offers different types of benefits depending on the size of the operator working within the freight factoring framework. For small trucking companies or owner-operators, they can take on additional work without having to worry about whether that last invoice is going to get paid. For larger trucking companies, they can prevent interruptions in their cash flow operations.

Some businesses suffer from not being what are considered “prime borrowers.” Freight factoring eliminates this hurdle by letting trucking companies have their customers be judged based on their creditworthiness, rather than the trucking company itself.

Of course, neither small or large operators will get paid the entire invoice at once. As we mentioned before, the freight factoring operator will typically pay out 80 – 90% of the invoice’s value, then pay the remaining balance, minus their fee for the front, once the invoice has been paid by the customer.

Freight factoring terms and conditions will also typically be different depending on how much invoice factoring an operator needs. Freight factoring entities generally cater to operators of a particular size. If a larger trucking company wants $40,000 or more of factoring per month, they will generally seek different partners than a small owner-operator or trucking company that is doing business that requires less than $25,000 a month in factoring assistance.

What Fees are Associated with Freight Factoring?

Freight factoring companies charge different levels of fees depending on the company. Still, there are generally accepted and known levels of fees that trucking companies can expect when working with a freight factoring operator.

There are generally initial setup fees, which vary widely, then a transaction fee for the deposit. If the deposit is straight into a company bank account, fees are usually around $10. For wire transfers that occur on a per-transaction basis, fees generally run between $15 and $30.

The factoring company will also want to do a credit check on the client in question, which may carry a fee. There will also be a fee per invoice factored and then finally, a minimal commitment fee. Freight factoring companies will generally want to have a certain amount of invoice factoring committed, perhaps $10,000 or $20,000 for a smaller operator or more for larger companies.

While some freight factoring companies charge a termination fee if the trucking company no longer wants to work with them, not all do. For those that do charge a termination fee, costs can range anywhere from $500 to up to $1,000.

Qualifying for Freight Factoring

One of the great things about freight factoring is that it is a lot easier to qualify for than if you are trying to get a traditional business loan from a bank or some other type of long-term financing. When it comes to freight factoring, you don’t have to worry about whether you are a prime borrower or not. The reason for this lies in the fact that the factoring provider is more interested in the credit of your customer, rather than your credit. Your customer will have to repay the loan, after all. Still, trucking operators themselves must still go through a bit of a background check when signing up with a freight factoring company. Fortunately, the requirements are generally nominal. A business would need a decent credit score, a specific number of at least 530 or above, invoices that are outstanding at least to 90 days, and have been in business for 3 – 6+ months.

Larger trucking companies who want to factor tens of thousands of dollars at a time, which equates to a more long-term partnership, requires customers who are creditworthy – with a potential credit score being pulled – invoices outstanding out to 90 days, and at least two years or more of business history.

The costs associated with freight factoring generally depends on how long it takes the customer to repay the invoice. The freight factoring company may charge per week or per month that the invoice remains outstanding if it is a recourse factoring contract. This also varies based on the size of the company partnering with the freight factoring provider.

The higher the volume of freight being factored, there could also be additional fees. Some freight factoring providers charge one-time origination fees of up to $500 depending on the minimum requirements for them to factor your company’s freight.

Contract or spot factoring refers to a type of factoring that gives you flexibility to choose which invoices you factor. These situations require pretty high minimum requirements, $20,000 – $30,000 or more, and are mostly used by large trucking companies.

The bottom line is that freight factoring may be a good option for your business whether you are a large trucking company or a small owner-operator. Whether you need to utilize it to cover cash flow gaps or take on more contracts, projects, or clients, it can be a very helpful way to scale your business without having to worry about which of your customers are coming through on their invoicing commitments.

Still, the right type of factoring depends on the size of your business. We hope this blog post has helped inform your decision on the type of factoring that is right for you.